SA and Saudi Arabia partner for billions in agricultural exports

Minister Thoko Didiza, deputy ministers Zoleka Capa and Mcebisi Skhwatsha, together with Saudi Arabia and SA's government officials. Photo: Food For Mzansi
Food for Mzansi | 28 February 2024

SA and Saudi Arabia partner for billions in agricultural exports
by Ivor Price
Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza emphasised the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia as a key market for agriculture, importing approximately R380 billion (US$20 billion) worth of agricultural products annually.
South Africa, as a net exporter of agricultural products, aims to expand domestic production on over two million hectares of currently underutilised land, with the goal of increasing exports in the coming years.
Strengthening ties
Didiza, during a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s minister of environment, water and agriculture, Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen A. AlFadley, highlighted the Middle Eastern nation as a crucial partner in deepening trade relations across various value chains.
Also in attendance were other senior government officials, representatives from agricultural state entities, and key figures from the business communities of both nations. Additionally, the delegation from Saudi Arabia included industry representatives spanning livestock, sugar, and grains, indicating a keen interest in exploring opportunities for increased domestic production in these crucial sectors.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a vital partner in deepening trade for the current and future produced in the new lands for all value chains,” stated Didiza, underscoring the significance of the collaboration.
Saudi Arabia’s visit follows the successful negotiations on the protocol for red meat exports, which were finalised in October last year. As a result, South African livestock industries can now export red meat to Saudi Arabia, marking a significant milestone in the bilateral agricultural relationship between the two nations.
In a release,  Didiza’s department describes the engagement between the ministers and officials from both nations as deeply encouraging, with prospects of a fruitful partnership and stronger trade and investment relations.
Didiza expressed gratitude to the domestic farming businesses and agribusinesses that participated in the discussions, showcasing the high-quality products South Africa produces and presenting attractive investment opportunities.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a strategically significant agricultural export market, and it is fitting that South Africa explores agricultural trade and investment possibilities with them,” noted Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo.
New markets

He said over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has consistently imported an average of about $20 billion worth of agricultural products, with major suppliers including Brazil, India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Turkey, and Egypt.
Key imports for Saudi Arabia include meat and edible offal, rice, barley, milk and cream, cigars, cheese, live sheep and goats, sugar cane, maize, chocolate, citrus, palm oil, oilcake, bananas, tea, vegetables, and fruit juices.
South Africa, however, represents less than 2% of Saudi Arabia’s total agricultural imports, primarily contributing with oranges, lemons, pears, grapes, mandarins, apples, plums, grapes, avocados, and recently, beef.
“While South Africa is a minor player in the Saudi Arabian agricultural market, the recent establishment of market access for beef exports to Saudi Arabia is a promising development,” emphasised Sihlobo.
He further explained that South Africa has traditionally been a net exporter of several products, with its focus mainly on European, African, and Asian markets. Strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia presents an opportunity for closer cooperation and the expansion of agricultural trade, benefiting South Africa.
Sihlobo underlined that this move does not diminish South Africa’s strong ties with existing partners such as the European Union, the United States, the African continent, and other regions. These markets remain strategically crucial for South Africa’s agriculture.
“South Africa is committed to expanding its export markets, and the engagements with Saudi Arabia align perfectly with this ambition, reflecting the views of both the South African government and the private sector,” he concluded.
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