Saudi Arabia is keen to address the food security issue by investing in agricultural land in other countries, according to Danny Cunningham of Enterprise Ireland, which has a branch office in Riyadh.
Cunningham said a one-day seminar on Food Security will be organized at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) Monday. Some leading Saudi businessmen, CEOs and presidents of agricultural companies and members from the Irish trade delegation will attend.
He said Batt O’Keeffe, Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, will open the seminar at the RCCI.
“O’Keeffe is leading a 71-member Irish trade delegation to Saudi Arabia from Saturday to Wednesday. About 50 Irish companies that include companies from the Irish agriculture sector will tour Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam,” Cunningham said.
Fifty innovative Irish firms joining Minister O’Keeffe on the trade mission are from sectors including construction, engineering, information technology, education, finance and consulting.
A unique aspect of the trade mission to Saudi Arabia will be the participation of representatives from each of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.
Saudi Arabia is a key high-growth market for Irish firms, Cunningham said.
“Despite the tough global trade climate, Irish exports to Saudi Arabia grew to over €400 million last year,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is Ireland’s largest export market in the Middle East, he said.
More than 70 Irish small businesses are doing business in Saudi Arabia and 20 have a full-time market presence in the country.
Cunningham said Saudi Arabia has been investing in agricultural land procurement in Africa, Brazil and Argentina, as part of a long-term strategy for food security.
Keynote speakers from Saudi Arabia and Ireland will explore possibilities on how to clinch deals with countries that can offer food security for the Kingdom, he said.
“Ireland has expertise in the food and agriculture sector and is ready to offer Saudi Arabia technical know-how and skills required for engaging in agricultural farming in third countries such as Sudan, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina,” he said.
Minister O’Keffe will hold meetings with Abdullah Ahmed Zeinal Ali Reza, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeah, Minister of Health, and Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Anqari, Minister of Higher Education.
Ali Reza has earlier said that Saudi Arabia will be investing in agriculture not only in South Africa but in four other African countries in order to teach effective crop growing techniques as well as to transfer valuable skills.
”Food security is vital,” Ali Reza said. Saudi farmers have managed to establish special techniques for growing more maize per hectare, and the Kingdom has a lot to offer the world in the agricultural sector, he said.
“We look at Africa not only as a place where products can be harvested, but we look at making Africa a partner in the fight for food security,” Ali Reza was quoted in a media report as saying.