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Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

Saudi Arabia


During the 1970s and 1980s, the government undertook a massive restructuring of the agricultural sector. The stated objectives were food security through self-sufficiency and improvement of rural incomes. Although successful in raising domestic output of several important crops and foodstuffs through the introduction of modern agricultural techniques, the agricultural development program has not entirely met these objectives. In regard to self- sufficiency, the kingdom produced a sufficient surplus to export limited quantities of food. However, if the entire production process were considered, the import of fertilizers, equipment, and labor have made the kingdom even more dependent on foreign inputs to bring food to the average Saudi household.

Two patterns of income distribution emerged: traditional agricultural regions did not benefit from the development program, and the government's financial support led to the establishment of large-scale agricultural production units. Some of these were managed and operated by foreign entities and owned by wealthy individuals and large businesses. From an environmental viewpoint, the program had a less than satisfactory impact. Not only has it caused a serious drain on the kingdom's water resources, drawing mainly from nonrenewable aquifers, but it has also required the use of massive amounts of chemical fertilizers to boost yields. In 1992 Saudi agricultural strategy was only sustainable as long as the government maintained a high level of direct and indirect subsidies, a drain on its budget and external accounts.

Data as of December 1992