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Red Sea Global farm co-op builds on Saudi food plans

Red Sea Global farm co-op Tamala UN FAO/ICRISAT
The Red Sea Farm Cooperative will bring together 3,000 Saudi farms
  • 3,000 farms involved
  • Agri sector worth SAR100bn last year
  • SAR7bn of lending has boosted it

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global has set up a farm cooperative to supply its resorts, amid wider plans to boost farming and food security.

The Red Sea Farm Cooperative, also known as Tamala, aims to build on Saudi Arabia’s record agricultural production levels that were achieved last year.

Farmers will be able to sell their produce directly to RSG resorts as well as introduce new technologies to increase production while prioritising sustainability. 

Spread across 28,000 square kilometres and including an archipelago of more than 90 islands, Red Sea Global’s resorts target climate-conscious tourists. They will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy and are committed to carbon neutrality.

The cooperative brings together more than 3,000 farms – many of which are growing citrus fruits, olives and dates. 

“Empowering and supporting regional agriculture allows [us] to bring fresh and sustainable produce to our guests while sourcing food responsibly and supporting the local economy,” John Pagano, group CEO at Red Sea Global said. 

He added that the goal is to maximise the potential of farming businesses in line with the growth of tourism to the kingdom.

“Local farmers [will] share knowledge and best practices and implement fair prices for produce,” he said.

They will be guided by experts to increase efficiency and adopt more sustainable farming methods while improving irrigation, Pagano added.

Tamala chairman Dr Abdullah Al-Dubaikhi said the launch represents a “significant opportunity” for Saudi agriculture. 

“Our strategic plan has been developed through extensive research of Tabuk’s environmental ecosystems, identifying the opportunities and challenges for local farmers as well as natural and human resources,” Al-Dubaikhi said.

Production and investment

Domestic agricultural production in Saudi Arabia reached SAR100 billion ($26.7 billion) in 2022, marking its highest contribution to GDP in history, according to its deputy agriculture minister Mansour Al-Mushaiti. 

Increased investment in the industry has focused on technology to increase production while reducing water consumption.

The country’s Agricultural Development Fund, which promotes and helps finance the introduction of modern technologies, has increased its lending to the industry from SAR500 million in 2015 to SAR7 billion last year.

According to data platform Knoema, the total agricultural land area in Saudi Arabia was 1.74 million sq km in 2020, double that of 50 years ago.

In a further boost, the National Agricultural Development Company (Nadec) announced plans to set up a company focused on potato seed production.

National Seeds Production Company is a joint venture with Leha Agricultural Production Company and HZPC Holland, with Nadec holding a 51 percent share.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund signed a joint venture agreement with AeroFarms, a US-based sustainable indoor agriculture company, to build and operate indoor vertical farms through a newly-established company in Riyadh.

The kingdom ranked joint 41st in the latest edition of the Global Food Security Index which revealed a fragile global food system ill prepared to weather shocks like the war in Ukraine and the worsening impact of climate change.

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