In keeping with the goals of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s yearly mango output climbed to 88,600 tons, or 60% self-sufficiency, reports Arab News. More than 6,880 hectares of the mango fruit crop have been planted by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture to improve output. The Kingdom has several areas where the seasonal fruit crop is grown. However, Jizan region governorates Sabya, Abu Arish, Al Darb, Samtah, and Baish, and Al Qunfadhah governorate in Makkah region, produce most of it. Over 250,000 mango trees in the Kingdom produced little more than 18,000 tons of fruit annually as of 2005. With one million mango trees and an output of more than 65,000 tons annually, there were more than 19,100 mango farms in 2022.
Saudi Arabia’s Agricultural Development Program: From Underground Aquifers to Controlled Environment Agriculture
Saudi Arabia is a desertic country with little to no access to arable land beside a few oasis areas. Yet, its agriculture sector is one of the most important in the region, producing a range of crops from watermelon to wheat and potato. This is due to the projects the government took in the mid 70’s to restructure the sector and become self-sufficient in the longer term. At the time, Saudi Arabia was heavily dependent on food imports, which were becoming increasingly expensive due to rising oil prices. In addition, the country’s rapidly growing population pressured the government to provide more food and employment opportunities. To address these challenges, the Saudi government launched a massive agricultural development program, which included constructing large-scale irrigation systems and introducing modern farming techniques.
The centerpiece of the agricultural development program was the construction of a massive network of underground aquifers to provide water for irrigation. This involved drilling deep wells in the desert and pumping water to the surface using electric pumps. The government also offered subsidies and incentives to farmers to encourage them to adopt modern farming techniques and invest in new equipment and technology. The agricultural development program was initially successful, and Saudi Arabia became largely self-sufficient in several key food crops, including wheat, barley, and dates. However, the program was also beset by some challenges, including the depletion of groundwater resources, soil degradation, and high water and energy cost. In addition, many farmers who participated in the program lacked the skills and expertise to manage their farms effectively, decreasing productivity and profitability. Moreover, the program affected the country’s groundwater resources, stagnating the sector for over two decades (1990-2010).
With the rise of CEA (both greenhouses in vertical farms), the government, as shown above, has initiated several development projects to accelerate the growth of agriculture in the country. Today, all the mega-projects we discuss in the news, whether it be NEOM or the Red Sea Project, include CEA developments to ensure the cities are self-reliant on several food crops.
Read more in our latest editorial on Saudi Arabia’s push for CEA here.