Brazilian Produce: Saudis Want it All

SAUDI ARABIA - In meetings with representatives of the Arab Brazilian Chamber and the Ministry of Agriculture, yesterday, in Riyadh, Saudi leaders stated that the liquidity coming from oil and the local consumer habits are boosting the demand for foods. As the country is reducing local plantations to economise water for human consumption, it plans to import more from Brazil.
calendar icon 29 February 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The Brazilian delegation was met yesterday at the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, in Riyadh
Alexandre Rocha/ANBA

Saudi Arabia wants to expand imports of agricultural products from Brazil to guarantee the supply of its growing consumer market, reports Alexandre Rocha. "We need everything, anything that comes will be consumed," said this week, in Riyadh, the director general of laboratories and quality control at the Ministry of Industry and Trade in the country, Mohammed Al-Debasi, during a meeting with representatives of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Apart from the growing demand, caused by liquidity coming from oil and by local consumer habits, the country, which is already a great importer of foods, is reducing plantations with the objective of economizing water for human consumption.

"We have thousands of hectares turned to agriculture, but I do not know whether this is going to continue due to the matter of water," said Abdulrahman Al-Kanhal, the Foreign Affairs assistant to the secretary general of the General Council of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia, during another meeting yesterday.

The Brazilian delegation had meetings at the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and at the Council of Chambers. In all the talks, the need for the country to expand its agricultural imports was clear. The Saudis mentioned the demand for live cattle, chicken, eggs, dairy products, maize and soy, among other products.

The director general for Plant and Vegetable Quarantine at the Ministry of Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Ghaniy Al-Fadhl, for example, was surprised to know that Brazil has around 200 million heads of cattle, the largest commercial herd in the world. "Why don't you export live animals to our country yet?" he inquired.

Saudi Arabia has cattle, sheep, goat and camel farms for the production of meat and milk, but the country needs to import mainly animals for reproduction. Currently the country imports from nations like Syria, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Sudan and Djibouti. In goats and lamb alone, the country purchases 5 million heads a year.

According to Al-Fadhl, milk production is very important to the country's economy, and it also exports dairy products to other countries in the region. He said, for example, that Al-Assafi farm is the second main dairy farm in the world. "It is in the Book of Records," he guaranteed. The Saudis, however, must import dairy cattle for breeding.

In the case of chicken, the country was recently hit by avian flu and, apart form importing chicken meat, needs to import fertilized eggs and one-day chicks from countries like the United States and Germany.

The Foreign Relations director at the Ministry of Agriculture of Brazil, Célio Porto, said that the government of Brazil wants to promote the export of items that are complementary to the Saudi economy and that don't compete with local production. "We have no problems with importing from your country," said Al-Fadhl.

The secretary general at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Michel Alaby, pointed out that Brazilian cattle is totally fed on pasture and vegetable feed, and Porto added that the country has never had any cases of mad cow disease. "We slaughter 40 million heads of cattle a year," he said.

Diversifying suppliers

Al-Debasi, of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, pointed out that Saudi Arabia also wants to expand the number of Brazilian companies that supply the country with beef and chicken, as few companies are still responsible for the lion's share. Porto stated that the government of Brazil has as its objective expanding the number of export companies, especially the medium sized ones. Al-Debasi added that Saudi consumers have as their habit buying more food than they need, one of the factors for greater demand.

Khaled Otaibi, economic advisor at the Council of Chambers, pointed out that the private sector has been gaining more and more importance in the country, currently answering to 44% of the Saudi GDP. "And Brazil is our strategic partner," he said. Al-Kanhal added that apart form the reduction of the cropland, a great animal feed factory will be built in the country, further increasing the demand for inputs like barley, maize and soy. "We need great volumes of products for that," he said.

With the deputy secretary general of the Council of Chambers, Fahad Aslimy, and with representatives of the government of Saudi Arabia, the Brazilian delegation has started planning new trade and government missions from Saudi Arabia to Brazil and from Brazil to Saudi Arabia. The conclusion was that the best way to expand trade is face-to-face contact.

The meetings also included the ambassador of Brazil to Riyadh, Isnard Penha Brasil Júnior, the marketing vice president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Rubens Hannun, the market development coordinator at the organisation, Rodrigo Solano, and the director of the Trade Promotion Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Eduardo Sampaio Marques.

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