Saudi minister against 'land grabbing'

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ANSAmed | 18 April 2014
Saudi Arabia condemns land grabbing and has no such enterprise, says Saudi Agriculture Minister Fahd Bin Abdulrahman Bin Sulaiman Balghunai.

Saudi minister against 'land grabbing'

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 18 - Saudi Arabia condemns land grabbing and has no such enterprise, Saudi Agriculture Minister Fahd Bin Abdulrahman Bin Sulaiman Balghunaim has told ANSAmed .

''We actually believe this phenomenon can be eliminated thanks to laws and regulations on agricultural investments in guest countries'', said the minister, explaining Riyadh's position on an issue concerning a multitude of States. From China to India, Europe to the United States, Gulf countries to Japan, everybody is looking for fertile lands worldwide to buy or rent to produce foods able to cover their domestic needs. The majority of States willing to welcome this kind of investment, said Balghunai, ''does it at its own initiative''.

Though Saudi Arabia does not support land grabbing and does not invest its capital directly on this type of enterprise, the State encourages with its laws private companies to invest abroad in the agricultural sector. The minister recalled that the initiative ''King Abdallah for agricultural investments abroad'' was launched a while back.

The project is aimed at encouraging the private sector to invest out of the kingdom, while following the principle of Responsible Agricultural Investments. ''The objective is to contribute to food security locally, regionally and internationally, as well as ensuring that Saudi Arabia has a strategic reserve of basic foodstuffs''.

So far, 31 developing countries have accepted to host Saudi investments.

Meanwhile the country is vying to produce more and better on its soil, as well as producing abroad. Over the past decades, Saudi Arabia has invested in diversifying its economy and developing the agricultural sector which today represents 2% of GDP ''reaching high levels of self-sufficiency for the most part in basic foods'' and high levels of automation in production processes, the minister said.

An example of successful investments and avant-garde technology is Al-Safi, the largest integrated farm producing milk and cheese worldwide, an air-conditioned enterprise where cows - about 40,000 of the Holstein breed - are automatically milked and computers monitor procedures.

Feed is produced locally - water is pumped from hundreds of metres underground - and milk and its derivates are exported to neighboring countries. Riyadh has also implemented radical changes, including its decision to stop producing wheat by 2016, which after that date will be bought solely on international markets as too much water is necessary to produce it locally.

In a country with little water, organic productions could also appear like a real luxury. However, the organic sector is expanding thanks to a law approved in 2010 which supports its development.

''The number of organic farms today has risen to 81 and the land cultivated totals 16,347 hectares'', stressed the minister.

Italy is one of the main commercial partners of Saudi Arabia with exchanges exceeding 11 billion euros a year, which can grow in the agricultural sector. ''Italy has advanced technical know-how which, potentially, could help develop joint projects'', said the minister. (ANSAmed)
Original source: ANSAmed
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