Saudi Gets First Rice Produced by Locals Abroad

Reuters | 27/01/2009

Riyadh, Jan 27 -- Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest rice importers, has received the first batch of rice to be produced abroad by local investors, state news agency SPA reported on Monday.

SPA said King Abdullah had met two private investors, who are part of the so-called King Abdullah's Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad, after the rice arrived in the kingdom. The agency gave no further details.

Saudi Arabia imported a little over 1 million tonnes of rice in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Saudi government said last year it would spur global investment through an investment firm owned by public and private investors to ensure the country's long-term food security.

SPA said the King Abdullah initiative would seek to achieve domestic and global food security through "integral and sustainable partnerships covering strategic farm produces" in several countries.

It did not name countries but cited Ethiopia, Turkey, Ukraine, Egypt, Sudan, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and Vietnam as among those that were prospected by Saudi officials and investors.

The kingdom would import a "reasonable amount" of commodities, provide support for those investments and sign bilateral agreements with the relevant governments, SPA added.

Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghonaim has said Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, would focus its agricultural investments on items that either cannot be grown in the kingdom such as rice and sugar or need plenty of water such as wheat, barley and animal fodder.

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