Saudi Arabia, a “fossil fuel superpower” is one of the top twenty economies in the world, a country with a business-friendly and trade-oriented environment. In 2019 its imports grew by 6,5% from the previous year and reached US$144,3 billion. Food imports also continued to rise especially for cereals, rice, meat, and dairy products.
With only 1.5 percent of its overall land area classified as arable, Saudi Arabia is unable to domestically produce sufficient output of agri-food products to meet local market demand, let alone a growing appetite for a wide range of foods and gourmet products.
The harvested area in Saudi Arabia is less than 1 million hectares (10,000 km2), a fraction of the share in similar markets by land area and geography such as Mexico. Therefore, the kingdom imports more than 80% of its food requirements from foreign countries like Germany, the USA, China, Italy, Spain or the Netherlands.
The vast majority of the food products are imported by the private sector and are subject to a 5% import duty while coffee, tea, and fresh red meat enter the country duty-free. Selected processed food products, however, are assessed higher import duties.
Saudi Arabia is a major importer of cereals, with a value of around US$$4.3 billion. In a top of most imported cereals rice places first, followed by barley, corn, and wheat.
WHEAT- SAGO is the exclusive importer of subsidized food-grade wheat in Saudi Arabia. The major food suppliers of wheat are the USA, Germany, Lithuania, and Poland.
BARLEY- Imported barley is used for animal feed, as there is no beer production in Saudi Arabia. Approximately 80% of imported barley is fed to sheep, camels, and goats without further processing in combination with green forage.
RICE- Saudi Arabia’s rice per capita consumption is estimated at 35 kg/year. The major supplier of rice until 2017 was India, but due to the shortage of production, it couldn’t supply all the kingdom’s needs. Nowadays, Pakistani and Thailand supply rice, along with India.
CORN- The import of corn is expected to rise approx. 13% in the upcoming year.
There is a high demand for meat, especially for halal and red meat, having an import value of approx. US$1,5 million. The suppliers are Brazil (79.1%), France (18.2%), U.S. (1.2%) and Argentina (1.1%).
The biggest demand is for beef with US$426 million and the biggest supplier is India, followed by Brazil, Australia and the USA.
In 2018 US$1.88 billion worth of dairy products were imported by Saudi Arabia, along with eggs and honey. Cheese, along with milk cream, was the most searched product with import values of US$246 million.
The major suppliers are New Zeeland, USA, and the United Arab Emirates, which supplied dairy products worth of US$226.31 million.
Fruits and Vegetables
Another category that saw a rise in imports is fresh fruits, especially exotic fruits and fresh vegetables. In the category of exotic fruits, bananas, watermelons, apples, and pineapples are highly requested and Latin America remains the major supplier.
In the case of vegetables, China, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Australia represent the biggest suppliers, being imported US$126.08 million for this segment.
THREE FOOD IMPORTERS FROM SAUDI ARABIA
1. Al Rasheed Trading
Address: P.o Box 28411, Riyadh
Top products imported: Various Ethnic Foods
2. Al Kabli Holding
Address: P.o. Box: 3311, Jeddah
Top products imported: Chocolate, Candy, Biscuits, Cookies
3. Orient Provision & Trading
Address: 4th Floor, Optc Building, Tahlia Street, Jeddah
Top products imported: Canned Fruits and Vegetables
To get access to a list of more active food importers from Saudi Arabia, you can access one of the BestFoodImporters databases.