The UAE’s plan to phase-out water intensive production of Rhodes grass lags behind. Rhodes grass dominates field crops with 94 percent. Alfalfa, which is the dominant green fodder in Saudi Arabia contributes another 4 percent.
In Saudi Arabia alfalfa production has actually increased after farmers started to plant it as a substitute for the phase out of subsidized wheat production since 2008.
Without increased water tariffs or rationing a reduction in green fodder production is not be had.
Saudi Arabia is increasing its soybean and corn imports from Brazil by 150 percent against the backdrop of a drought in the US and reduced exports by Argentina.
Egypt increases imports of these items from Brazil by over 900 percent!
In good years, Russia and Ukraine are responsible for about half of global barley exports. Saudi Arabia in turn imports about 40 percent of globally traded barley. An early drive at barely self-sufficiency was given up in 2003 already, before the wheat phase out in 2008.
After a drought this summer Russia and Ukraine fail to provide necessary quantities and Saudi Arabia needs to source supplies in Australia, Argentina and Western Europe, where France is a large supplier.
One reason why barley imports in Saudi Arabia are so high are subsidies.They encourage a sheep fattening industry – economically it makes more sense to import lamb and feed it on subsidized barley than importing grown up sheep.
This industry is mostly located in Jeddah and other coastal cities, not in traditional livestock rearing areas.
Beside this industry barley subsidies are also important to feed the camel and sheep of Bedouin in rural areas and ensure tribal loyalty there.
Hence, interests are vested. Yet Saudi Arabia needs to think whether it is wise to incentivize barley consumption to such an extent and maintain such a high dependence on volatile imports.
As self-sufficiency is not an option for lack of water, some sort of demand reduction might be necessary.
Saudi Arabia is about to set up an association for livestock farmers soon. It will be run as a private NGO in order to facilitate governance of the farming sector.
The Ministry of Agriculture feels that it alone does not have the capacities to reach every single farmer and a new institution is required.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) has launched “a new sustainable food system to address the growing concern of food security and rising prices in the Kingdom.”
It will monitor the prices and the availability of strategically imrtant foo items and will be run togetehr with the King Abdullah Chair for Food Security at King Saud University (KSU).