Saudi milk production rising amid water concerns

Saudi Arabia’s dairy industry is bucking the trend of agricultural downsizing: Wheat production is declining and will be phased-out by 2016 (if everything is going according to plans and rearguard fights of ago-lobbies notwithstanding).

Milk production however is rising and will grow 27.2 percent to 2.4mn tons by 2016/17.

A motion by the Saudi Majlis al-Shoura some time ago was opposed by the Ministry of Agriculture which tends to represent the water guzzling agro-industry, which is often in royal hands like the leading dairy producer Almarai.

The argument was that dairy production is not water intensive because it uses imported feedstock like barley. This of course conveniently overlooked the water consumption for green fodder (mainly alfalfa) and for raising the cattle itself (drinking water, cleaning the stables etc.).

Interests are vested and the phasing-out of wheat production will not mean a reduction of water consumption if dairy production and associated green fodder production keeps rising.

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