5 Apr 2021 13:32

Russia invites Saudi investors into program to expand agricultural land

MOSCOW. April 5 (Interfax) - Russia's Agriculture Ministry is inviting Saudi investors to participate in a program to expand agricultural land and directly invest in the development of Russia's agricultural sector.

"Russia plans to bring at least 13 million hectares of agricultural land into circulation in the next ten years, which will significantly increase the potential, including export potential, of Russia's agricultural sector. Saudi companies can directly participate in these expansion programs," Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Levin said at a plenary session on the prospects for developing trade between the two countries that was held as part of a Russian-Saudi online business mission organized by the ministry's Agroexport center.

"Saudi partners' direct investment in the development of Russian agricultural production could become a serious instrument guaranteeing both the kingdom's food security and the volume of supplies," Levin said.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have great potential to further develop cooperation in agriculture, he said. "Despite the pandemic, the volume of mutual trade in the area of agriculture doubled last year. Government bodies are doing everything possible to ease and create the conditions businesses need for active trade," Levin said.

He recalled that a significant step last year was the Saudi procurement authority's decision to ease requirements for imported wheat as regards corn bug content. "Thanks to this, shipments of Russian wheat began. Still in modest amounts so far, but nonetheless 250,000 tonnes were sold," Levin said.

"And Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of Russian barley. Last year its shipments increased to more than $0.5 billion, which is 120% more than in 2019," he said.

There was also a 22% increase in exports of Russian confectionary products in 2020, and beef exports, which began last year, have increased significantly.

There is strong potential for exporting Russian meat and meat products, and grains and legumes, Levin said.

"Last year, oversight bodies agreed on certificates for shipments of Russian dairy products, fish and fish products and honey. I believe that arranging for shipments of these products to Saudi Arabia as soon as possible can have a positive impact on the mutual expansion of exports of agricultural products and food," Levin said.