Kingdom To Develop Organic Farming

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, which leads the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in terms of ambitious organic farming projects and by setting up a private sector Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA), is currently mapping out a comprehensive action plan for the development of organic farming and food.

Saudi Minister of Agriculture Fahd Balghunaim, who was elected president of the 10-member SOFA board of directors, said, “The Saudi government has been backing the initiative to promote organic farming with the help of the German technical agency GTZ.

“Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has donated SR10 million, while Crown Prince Sultan has given SR5 million to support this initiative and to ensure the production of organic food to the highest standards and quality.”

The project initiative known as “Introduction of Organic Farming into Saudi Arabia” is being promoted by GTZ, said Agriculture Minister Balghunaim.

The GTZ is also responsible for preparing the organizational set-up for SOFA, while offering its expertise to the ministry in order to prepare a regulatory framework for organic farming in Saudi Arabia.

The SOFA, he said, was also entrusted with the task of monitoring organic production, protecting farmers and promoting consumer awareness. The move is in line with the policies of European countries, which are also working on the development of organic farming and food as agreed in the Copenhagen Declaration.

The Copenhagen Declaration states that organic farming is a highly relevant tool, which contains the potential to participate in solving a range of problems related to food production, environment, animal welfare, and rural development simultaneously.

Asked about the exhibition, Balghunaim said, “It is a specialized event of agricultural machines, technology, water management, recycling and the latest equipment, which also provides a platform for sharing information and learning from international expertise.”

The highlight of the exhibition is the participation of about nine major Iranian companies, which are featuring their products and services.

The four-day event features some 250 companies from 32 countries which are actively participating in the event to exhibit their country’s potential in the field of agriculture. A number of other companies from Saudi Arabia, the United States, India, Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, the UAE, Pakistan and Malaysia are also displaying their latest products and services.

The exhibition seeks to show the potential of different countries in the fields of agriculture and water. The event is important since Saudi food and agricultural imports are expected to grow by 25 percent in 2009 and exceed the SR56.35 billion spent on these products in 2008, according to a report. The Kingdom is currently the GCC’s largest agricultural importer, with food and agricultural products accounting for around 13 percent of total imports and currently representing the fourth biggest domestic import sector.

This show capitalizes on business and regulatory conditions to showcase the latest in agricultural and water technology, machinery and equipment, said an organizer, while speaking at the occasion.

The four-day exhibition will be open from 4.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

In addition, several workshops, conferences and networking activities will be featured as part of a strategy to monitor new industry patterns and trends.

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