Located in the Arabic peninsular, Saudi Arabia has a population of over 30 million. The Saudi Arabian territory is mostly sandy desert and only 1,5% of the land is arable. With a steadily growing per capita food consumption, a growing population and global warming adding to the already harsh climate, Saudi Arabia’s food security is of crucial importance. Moreover, the region’s instability takes influence on food prices.
Even with intensive irrigation and modern farming technology Saudi Arabia’s agriculture and food sector makes up only 2% of GDP and employs 6.7% of the workforce. The main agricultural products are dates, tomatoes and wheat.
Because of the lack of agricultural production, Saudi Arabia significantly depends on food imports. Today 80% of the country’s food is imported. In fact, 83-93% of the food energy consumed in Saudi Arabia comes from crops that are not native to the region. Notable imports are barley, wheat and maize. Wheat imports add up to 6,351,620 tons of wheat, valuing USD 1.96 billion.
Ensuring that notable imports such as barley and wheat are able to adapt to the challenges that agriculture faces today and tomorrow is of the utmost importance, not only to Saudi Arabia, but also the world. Ensuring the conservation and availability of crop diversity ensures stable costs of importing crops such as barley, wheat and maize
Saudi Arabia signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in 2005, joining 134 other contracting parties in the commitment to the global system for the conservation of crop diversity.
Image Credit: Charles Roffey