Saudi Arabia has opened itself up to the world, and its agriculture industry is no exception. A number of consumer trends are sweeping through the sector, influencing both buying habits as well as production as farmers find themselves looking to respond to new market demands.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a major trend toward healthier living, both globally and within Saudi. As a result, there has been a sharp increase in interest for organic produce as an alternative to traditionally grown fruits and vegetables. Additionally, there has been a global push to eliminate trans-fats in order to lower skyrocketing rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD). And with diabetes continuing to be a worldwide health issue, dates have gained a massive amount of popularity as a healthier sweet treat than chocolates and candies.
All of these trends have had a direct impact on agriculture in Saudi Arabia as producers and importers make major changes to keep up with demand. Below we explore in more detail how Saudi agriculture is keeping up with these global and local trends.
With young Saudi Arabians showing a strong preference for organic foods, the country’s organic foods sector is projected to grow at a 15.9% annual rate between 2019-2025.
As an initial foray into organic farming, the Saudi government is encouraging the organic production, processing and marketing of:
Moreover, with plans to establish more than 20 organic farms in the near future, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture is also seeking:
· to increase organic production by 300 percent
· to drive sustainable agricultural practices, while protecting the environment
· to drive high-profitability from organic farming
· to aggressively encourage greenhouse farming.
Organic Farming Investment
The government is empowering local farmers to meet demand with substantial investment in the sector. The Saudi government is encouraging organic farming in the kingdom, providing support to organic farmers by:
As a test run, earlier this year, the government assigned a USD 431,000 project to 165 farmers for a 12-month contract to help support small farms switching to organic farming. The project aims to produce:
· safe, high-quality food
· preserve the environment and natural resources
· streamline consumption of irrigation water
· promote and support organic production.
Under the terms of the contract, the Saudi Organic Farming Society will implement guided field visits to farms converting to organic agriculture, and prepare them for inspection and certification. If the appetite continues for organic produce, the country’s farmers could unlock massive market potential at home and abroad.
KSA Bans Trans-fats
Saudi Arabia’s government is banning the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO) by food manufacturers and importers in order to address the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the country. In fact, according to some estimates, approximately 37% of deaths in the country are caused by CVD.
The ban became effective this year, though compliance is a concern as there is currently no test to confirm the presence of PHVO. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) is requesting importers comply with the directive in order to ensure a healthier future for the country’s citizens and residents.
Dates in Demand