Interview: Dr. Saad A. Khalil Esa, King Abdullah Initiative for Agricultural Investment Abroad

An exclusive interview with Dr. Saad A. Khalil Esa, Director, Office of King Abdullah Initiative for Agricultural Investment Abroad, The Ministry of Agriculture.

What is the fund’s value?

It is a SALIK fund of SAR 3 billion, a 100 per cent government owned initiative.

How does it work?

We lend to private companies on an interest-free basis and support them with the required facilities and logistics to invest in agriculture abroad.

What are the main objectives of this initiative?

To increase global food production and provide an example of responsible international investment in agriculture. Thus a private Saudi investor investing in agriculture overseas will export only 50 percent of this production to Saudi Arabia and make the remaining 50 per cent available to the country of origin.

In which regions do you encourage private investors to invest?

We identified 31 countries for potential investment and negotiated the relevant agreements such as double taxation with them. The major requirement is their willingness to host a Saudi Investor.

In which products do you plan to have more investment/ less investment in the future?

We targeted the following commodities: wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, soyabeans, rice, sugar, oilseed, green fodder, livestock and fisheries. Dairy products and barley are a priority.

Have Saudi private companies already invested in the overseas agricultural sector?

A database featuring this information is currently being established but yes, Saudi Arabia has already invested in Sudan, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Australia.

Does Saudi Arabia plan to increase agricultural activity within the Kingdom?

Yes, we do. Date, poultry, vegetable and fruit production is increasing. We aim to increase the production of foods with low water requirements.

Does Saudi Arabia have any preference for technological partnership in the agricultural sector with particular countries?

We do not have particular linkage to any country, but agricultural technology from the Netherlands is very efficient.

Do you send nationals for training programs overseas?

Yes, we do have cooperation with many countries.

Does Saudi Arabia produce any wheat?

Saudi Arabia used to produce 4 million of wheat inside the Kingdom. The government started reducing wheat purchase from local producers since 2008 and by 2016 the Kingdom is likely to import all its wheat from overseas.

Interview by Ionna Elliot during AgInvesting Middle East event.

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