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Bean there, done that: Saudi takes coffee to US and Europe

Slope, Nature, Outdoors Creative Commons
Home to 54,000 coffee trees, the Jazan region in south-western Saudi Arabia has the highest proportion of the kingdom's 600 coffee farms
  • Plans to introduce New York, London, Paris and Rome to Saudi coffee
  • Saudi Coffee Company to invest $320m into industry by 2032
  • Jazan region home to Coffea Arabica and the iconic Khawlani bean

Saudi Arabia is targeting some of the world’s biggest cities as part of its campaign to promote the kingdom’s burgeoning coffee sector.

The Ministry of Culture said it concluded a campaign this week to introduce Saudi coffee to New York, London, Rome and Paris as the country’s Year of Saudi Coffee 2022 initiative gathers pace.

The one-week campaign took in a number of important tourist sites in the four cities, in addition to its appearance on advertising screens in the main squares and roads. 

Tourism officials are pushing Saudi Arabia’s coffee heritage, which has flourished for several centuries, especially in the south-western region of Jazan.

Jazan is host to the highest proportion of the kingdom’s 600 coffee farms. There are 400,000 coffee trees across the country and 54,000 in Jazan. It is here that the iconic Khawlani coffee bean is grown. 

Somaia Basha, research manager at Euromonitor International, told AGBI: “The global climate conditions have negatively impacted Brazil, the largest global producer of coffee in 2020, and while the initial estimates show a forecast for an improved yield in 2022 it still remains below 2019 levels.

“Additionally, coffee bean prices have seen a significant surge over recent years, which would force dependent importing countries to explore alternative supply routes, hence this initiative is perfectly timed to assure consistent supply of coffee to the Saudi market.”

Basha added: “Food security has always been on the agenda of governments around the world as a long-term goal, but recent challenges have escalated its priority, even in countries that have been historically regarded as food secure. 

“Saudi Arabia was one of the leading GCC countries in taking actionable steps to enhance localisation, explore alternate supply chain routes and start its own production location for products that are facing global shortage in production.” 

Saudi coffee consumption is forecast to increase by 5 percent a year up to 2026

In May Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), announced the launch of the Saudi Coffee Company with plans to invest $320 million into the industry over 10 years.

The kingdom currently harvests about 300 tonnes of coffee beans a year, and the PIF is aiming to increase this to 2,500 tonnes.

In partnership with the private sector, the company’s primary goal is to ensure that the national coffee industry is enabled along its entire value chain, from bean to cup.

The coffee market in Saudi Arabia has grown considerably in recent years and domestic market statistics demonstrate the attractive opportunity presented by the coffee sector. 

Market data shows that coffee consumption in the kingdom grew by approximately four percent a year between 2016 and 2021 and is forecast to increase each year up to 2026 by a further five percent, reaching an expected annual consumption of 28,700 tonnes.

“Our objective is to position the kingdom as the home for one of the most popular coffee beans in the world, Coffea Arabica beans, grown in the Jazan region,” said Saudi Coffee Company CEO Raja Al Harbi.

“We will work on enhancing the technology being used in the production of our coffee locally and provide all the training required to upskill our local farmers.

“We will also work on transferring technology and knowledge to the kingdom in various fields including the cultivation, roasting, marketing and sale of coffee.”

Saudi aims to increase its 300 tonnes of beans a year to 2,500 tonnesCreative Commons
Saudi Arabia is aiming to increase its 300 tonnes of beans a year to 2,500 tonnes

Earlier this month the Saudi Coffee Festival took place in Jeddah aimed at educating locals about the kingdom’s coffee culture and heritage. The event was organised by the Culinary Arts Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Quality of Life Program as part of the Year of Saudi Coffee 2022 initiative.

In November 2021 the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture announced plans to produce a “coffee development city” in the Al Bahar province of the south-western Hejazi region, where more than 300,000 arabica coffee seedlings will be planted over 15 years. 

However, questions have been raised about the environmental sustainability of the Saudi coffee industry, with water scarcity and irrigation issues plaguing the country’s agricultural ambitions in the recent past. 

PIF said its investment plans for developing the coffee industry include establishing a dedicated academy to train local talent, entrepreneurs, coffee plantation owners and farmers, as well as introducing new technology to improve planting, harvesting, roasting and marketing in Saudi Arabia.

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