For Saudi Arabia, agriculture sustenance from its own soil is almost an unattainable dream. This inescapable fact has been the consistent driving force that makes the agricultural produce market highly lucrative for the area.
Water, specifically from renewable water sources, is difficult to come by in the arid countryside. When this lack of water is combined with the ever-growing population of the country – one of the highest growths in the world – it is near impossible to provide enough agricultural resources for the country.
A World Bank report published late last year listed Saudi Arabia’s population rise to be 2.29% in 2011. Using this as a guide, its 2010 population size of 25 million may reach 40 million people in 2025. Agricultural products cannot physically be grown on Saudi land to sustain this level of occupation.
Breaking it down into the needs of an individual person, one human being requires approximately 1,000 cubic metres of water per annum to be able to grow the agriculture produce necessary for that one human being.
Meat consumption, which is on the rise globally, requires a high level of water consumption – the more red meat that is included in a diet, the higher the volume of water consumed.
Given these statistics, 25 million Saudis would need 25 billion cubic metres of this precious liquid to create enough agricultural products for self-sufficiency. For the projected growth of the population – 40 million in 2025 – this water consumption would be astronomical.
This all being said, Saudi Arabia is attempting to redress this balance. It has recently unveiled plans for agricultural projects based on dwindling resources and the rejuvenating of rural economies.
Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim recently said: “Saudi Arabia would like to be an effective element in increasing agricultural productivity… There are many alternatives to fulfil the domestic requirement and the ministry is working out several plans to cover the market demand.”
These plans, however, total self-sufficiency is still some way off; currently, the country produces only 42% of its poultry consumption domestically, and 85% of its vegetable consumption.
Despite these optimistic claims, it is clear that for other Middle Eastern countries, the sale of agricultural produce to the Saudi Arabian market could prove extremely lucrative.