Food Security Challenges in the Kingdom: Opportunities & Solutions

By : Dr. Raga’a Shawkat

Because of the need to create a comprehensive system for food security capable of interacting with the challenges of changes in the global supply of basic food commodities, the Kingdom adopted on Sha’ban 15, 1439 a strategy for food security prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture at the proposal of the Council of Economic Affairs and Development, which came from the Kingdom’s vision 2030.

Strategy goals and programs:

The strategy and operational plan aimed to achieve a sustainable local food production system for commodities with a differential advantage, achieve diversity and stability of external food sources, ensure access to safe and nutritious food in the Kingdom, encourage healthy and balanced eating habits, build readiness capacities to face risks related to food security and develop an institutional work model on the national level and ensuring clear and responsible governance.

These goals have been translated into eleven strategic programs, the most important of which is the launch of awareness programs to encourage healthy eating habits, the adoption of integrated programs for social safety nets that deal with the neediest groups, and the updating of systems and procedures in a way that rises to international standards and their application.

To implement the objectives of building readiness capacities to face risks related to food security, two strategic programs have been adopted: the early warning system and emergency management to develop and implement protocols and systems for managing crises and emergencies, as well as the strategic food stock program, which is concerned with developing mechanisms and policies for the operation and management of strategic stocks in partnership with actors in the private sector.

Facing the risks of food scarcity:

In light of the fluctuations in global food markets against the backdrop of the Russian war on Ukraine and facing the challenges of climate change, high temperatures, and scarcity of water resources, the Food Commodities Availability Committee, emanating from the Food Security Committee, was held under the chairmanship of the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and in the presence of representatives of the relevant ministries to review the developments of the abundance of food commodities. The main market in the Kingdom appreciates the efforts of all parties that contributed to the abundance of food and agricultural and animal supply commodities.

The Deputy Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture also confirmed during his participation (from a distance) in the Arab-Greek Food Conference that the Kingdom has based its vision on building a sustainable agricultural sector that contributes to achieving food and water security and economic and environmental development.

At the World Food Systems Summit, which was held on the sidelines of the United Nations meetings, the Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture explained that the Kingdom is working to enhance the sustainability of natural resources and improve consumption systems to reduce losses and waste by 50% by 2030.

He stressed the Kingdom’s keenness to support the efforts of the United Nations to rebuild global food systems to achieve food security and combat hunger and poverty at all national, regional, and international levels.

Solutions and foreseeing the future:

It is expected that the strategy and implementation plan will be implemented over 15 years, at a cost of SR 3.7 million during the first five years.

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture confirmed that the launch of the Agricultural Rural Development Program 2025 for SAR 12 billion contributed to diversifying the agricultural base and achieving food security by providing 43% of the total needs of the population of the targeted areas and about 19% of the total food needs of the Kingdom.

The ministry also reported that the agricultural sector in the Kingdom has achieved high production rates, raising its contribution to the GDP to 61.4 billion riyals.

She noted that the Kingdom was able to achieve self-sufficiency rates in many strategic food commodities, for example, the self-sufficiency rate of fresh milk was 120%, dates 111%, vegetables 87%, eggs 116% and fish 45%.

The ministry added that the supply chains of goods are safe, reliable, and continuous, and there are no fears of scarcity or shortages in the quantities supplied.

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