(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia imported 2.5 million tons of wheat worth SR2.9 billion in 2013, said Fahad bin Abdulrahman Balghunaim, minister of agriculture and chairman of Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO)
The Kingdom's wheat imports, from North and South America, European Union states and Australia, were meant to meet the needs of local consumption and maintain wheat stocks, he said
The average price per ton upon arriving in Saudi ports stood at SR1,195, he said
The minister said GSFMO bought the entire crop of local wheat from farmers, which amounted to 600,000 tons and they received full financial payments at the rate of SR1,000 per ton
Farmers' payments after deduction of zakat amounted to SR537.607 million, Balghunaim said
He said the cultivation of wheat locally will stop from 2016, and "we will then depend on imports from abroad to meet all local needs.
The Council of Ministers earlier decided to discontinue support to local wheat farmers by 12.5 percent per year from 2008, to stop the cultivation of wheat, which is adversely impacting groundwater resources
Referring to the GSFMO budget, the minister said it amounted to SR2.5 billion, an increase of 11 percent compared to figures of last year
New projects of the GSFMO included the establishment of additional silos with a storage capacity of 250,000 tons in Makkah region, as well as two mills with a capacity of 600 tons of wheat a day each in Jazan and Al-Kharj, he added
Balghunaim said the expansion projects were under way in terms of storage capacity and productivity, represented in the establishment of three new projects in Al-Jamom, Jazan and Al-Ihsa, aside from the new mill at the branch of organization in Al-Kharj.
Moreover, the expansion of storage capacity in Jeddah, Dammam and Asir will contribute to strengthening the GSFMO's ability to meet the total demand for flour, he said
"It will also assist in the expansion of wheat storage capacity for up to a full year instead of six months," he added