Rice is a staple food in Saudi Arabia. The rising imported rice prices due to lack of supplies will have a ripple effect on a daily diet of people.
Meeting the rapidly growing demand for rice is a critical challenge for the country’s policymakers and the main priority will be to make rice available in bulk in the country to avoid any further increase in rice prices, which have surged about 20 percent in a month.
Due to full dependence on imported rice, insignificant local production and population growth, the government has to find ways to cut down rice imports by expanding the scope of natural agricultural production.
Saudi Arabia’s import requirements of rice in 2014 are expected to reach above average levels of about 1.3 million tons as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates, and per capita rice consumption is likely to remain at around 40 kg in 2014 compared to 17.86 kg in 1999 and 35.90 kg in 2011.
The demand for rice is likely to grow in Saudi Arabia with the rise of immigrant work force from other Asian rice-eating countries and pilgrims coming for Haj and Umrah.
Saudi Arabia’s keenness to acquire foreign farmlands may not have come as a surprise as it is the largest country on earth without rivers. Saudi Arabia has been a food deficit country and will continue to be for many years to come.
There is a good move by the government as it is encouraging agricultural investments abroad in rice and other crops, and re-exporting products to Saudi Arabia.
About 70-80 percent of rice imports by Saudi Arabia comprise basmati rice from India. Thailand, Pakistan and the United States are other main suppliers of rice to Saudi Arabia.