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Tue 7 Dec 2010 08:48 PM

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Saudi Arabia boosts Sudan agriculture investment, says minister

Kingdom aims to grow cereals and animal feed in the northeast African country

Saudi Arabia boosts Sudan agriculture investment, says minister
Saudi Arabia may purchase 2 million metric tons of wheat this marketing year, and imports may exceed 3 million tons in 2016 (Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is encouraging its private sector to develop farming projects in Sudan as the government in Khartoum eases procedures for investors, Saudi Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim said.

In an interview yesterday in the Sudanese capital, Balghunaim said: “There’s an interest from Saudi investors in Sudan.” 

Saudi Arabia aims to grow cereals and animal feed in the northeast African country “because these crops consume large quantities of water,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, started in 2008 to encourage food companies to invest in Africa and Asia in order to reduce local grain production and conserve water. The government aims to cease cultivation in the country of water- intensive crops, including wheat, by 2016, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

The government has drawn up a list of countries, including Sudan, where it seeks an easing of investment restrictions and in which it encourages private investment, the minister said.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Group started production of “all kinds of crops” in Sudan last year, and Riyadh based National Agriculture Development Co, known as NADEC, is also investing in Sudan, though it hasn’t started production, the minister said. More Saudi companies may invest in Sudan, he said, without giving details.

The kingdom may purchase 2 million metric tons of wheat this marketing year, and imports may exceed 3 million tons in 2016, the Rome based FAO said in a report in October. The country may import 11.9 million tons of cereals in the marketing year through June 2011, up from 11.7 million tons in the prior period, the FAO said.

The Sudanese government says it is working on attracting foreign investors into non-oil sectors such as gold mining and agriculture, in a bid to diversify the economy.

Sudan relies on oil exports for most of its foreign currency earnings. Output of 490,000 barrels a day makes it sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Most of the oil is pumped in Southern Sudan, which is due to hold a referendum in January on whether to declare independence.

The referendum, which may divide Africa’s largest country in two, is a key part of a 2005 peace accord that ended a two- decade civil war between the nation’s Muslim north and the oil-producing south, where Christianity and traditional beliefs dominate. About 2 million people died in the conflict and more than 4 million were displaced.