Saudi Arabia ended the domestic wheat production program. Just a small number of farmers in the country will continue to produce wheat in artisanal mills.
In market year 2015-16, Saudi Arabia ended its domestic wheat production program that has lasted for more than three decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a report. A very small number of Saudi farmers, however, are expected to continue their wheat production to supply local artisanal mills, according to the report. In 2008, Saudi Arabia abandoned plans to become self-reliant in wheat as farming in the desert drained scarce water supplies and depleted aquifers. Saudi wheat imports for market year 2015-16 are projected to be around 3 million metric tons, a decline of about 14 percent from a year earlier due to large carryover stocks, the USDA report said.
Late last year, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Fares, managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization, the state agency in charge of grain imports, told an industry conference in Riyadh that the kingdom will import 3.5 million metric tons or 100 percent of its requirement in 2016. Demand for wheat is projected to reach 4.5 million metric tons in 2025, according to the Saudi agency.
Meanwhile Saudi barley imports in market year 2015-16 are projected at 8.5 million metric tons, about 4 percent higher than imports in the previous year, according to the report. The kingdom is among the world’s largest importers of barley and sorghum used to feed livestock. Saudi rice imports are expected to increase by 4 percent, to 1.48 million metric tons, according to the report.