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Oct 16

Saudi Organic Farming Association: A Country Committed to Sustainable Food Production

On request of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture, GIZ started to support the development of the Kingdom’s organic agriculture sector in April 2005. The overall mission of the Organic Farming Project was to establish a functioning and sustainable organic agriculture sector in Saudi Arabia. Within a mere 7 years, essential policy and support functions have been set in place and the project together with its partners of the Ministry’s Department of Organic Agriculture (DOA) and the Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA) has turned organic agriculture in the KSA into a remarkable example for organic sector development.

Consumer demand for healthy and high quality foods is growing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At the same time, domestic organic markets are emerging. Organic agriculture offers substantial opportunities for small farmers in the Kingdom since the shift from severe competition at local conventional markets to an organic niche market offers attractive price premiums in a growing market environment. However, the benefits of organic agriculture are not confined to business opportunities. In addition to market considerations, the Kingdom acknowledges organic as environmentally friendly and emphasizes the potential to protect the Kingdom’s valuable resources by strengthening soil fertility, biodiversity and other ecosystem services.

Beyond national interests, Saudi Arabia has taken up an important role in promoting organic throughout the entire Arabic peninsular. In 2011 the Kingdom has acknowledged the advocating role of IFOAM together with its standard equivalence initiatives and joined IFOAMs Family of Standards. The first Saudi Organic Regulation and Standards are currently under revision in order to fully comply with the Common Objectives and Requirements of Organic Standards (COROS) in the near future. The formation of an IFOAM Middle East Group is on the way; with Dr. Saad Khalil (Ministry of Agriculture Organic Farming Supervisor and Secretary General of SOFA) Saudi Arabia has engaged in both a facilitating and mediating role to strengthen organic in the Middle East, ease equivalence and support regional trade of organic products.

A first organic agricultural policy concept has been introduced in October 2012, depicting adequate policy support measures for strengthening the Kingdom’s organic sector  in a long-term perspective. First reactions by the Saudi government have been very positive and a translation of the policy into an operational organic action plan can be expected in 2013. The policy combines market oriented and resource oriented goals to an intermediate strategy reflecting both productivity  and resource objectives. Strengthening consumers’ awareness via a national PR campaign in 2013 is among priorities as well as supporting and strengthening basic governmental functions such as  Organic Research and Extension.

Organic agriculture research in dry climatic environments such as Saudi Arabia offers great future opportunities to deliver substantial solutions for smallholders in the Kingdom and elsewhere. In the light of extreme climates, Organic Research & Extension is among key issues which can make a difference for organic producers to help shape global sustainable organic systems development in future. Saudi Arabia has taken up this challenge and is about to develop and strengthen its Organic Agriculture Research Sector together with the GIZ in close collaboration with FiBL Switzerland. There is a lot to do, yet at the same time a lot of confidence and motivation to provide solutions to producers in arid climates in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Dr. Marco Hartmann
Organic Farming Project
Team Leader/Project Director
www.saudi-organic.org.sa

Dr. Saad Khalil
Organic Farming Supervisor, Ministry of Agriculture
Secretary General, Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA)
www.sofa.org.sa