(MENAFN - Arab News) New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully wrapped up a day's visit to the capital with the announcement that New Zealand would cooperate with the Kingdom to maintain food security in the region.
On arrival in Riyadh, McCully was received by Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister for Protocol Affairs Alawdeen Al-Askary in the morning and subsequently he called on Crown Prince Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim yesterday.
He also met Chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal during his visit.
The visiting official told a news conference at the New Zealand Embassy yesterday that during his talks with Balghunaim, it was agreed to bring a delegation to the Kingdom to explore how best the two countries could cooperate in the food security sector. He said the delegation would visit the Kingdom in early April with representatives from various agricultural companies to find new opportunities in the agricultural sector.
"With Saudi Arabia's growing, youthful population and rising food costs, New Zealand is keen to forge even stronger links with the largest nation in the Gulf to help ensure its future food security," he said.
New Zealand is the only Western food producer to require its products to receive government certification as totally halal-compliant, alongside the usual health and hygiene checks, he added.
"New Zealand is also exploring options for investment to support a public-private partnership on agriculture. This venture would conduct joint research and development projects in agriculture in the Kingdom," he noted.
New Zealand Ambassador Rodney Harris said: "Minister McCully visited at a time when the government of New Zealand is working very closely with the Kingdom in exploring options for investment to support a public-private partnership in agriculture."
"We have very strong ties with the Kingdom, and are looking forward to even closer cooperation in terms of food supply in future," the ambassador said. In the 12-month period ended December 2012, New Zealand's exports to the Kingdom totaled 556 million. This is an increase to the previous 12-month period which saw exports valued at 545 million, he noted. New Zealand's top four export categories to the Kingdom include dairy, eggs, honey, meat, baking related products and wood.
New Zealand, known for its exceptionally effective, efficient and environmentally friendly methods of food production, is also close to concluding a memorandum of understanding with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). A key focus of this agreement will be on food security cooperation.