JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia’s cereal imports in 2012-13 are forecast at high levels as the Kingdom continues its policy of gradually reducing domestic wheat production, the United Nations food body said Thursday.
Saudi Arabia plans to expand wheat-storage capacity by 27 percent over the next three years from 2.52 million tons, lifting its reserves to a year of consumption from 10 months now, according to the FAO. The country is phasing out wheat cultivation by 2016 to preserve water.
Wheat imports in 2012-13 are forecast to be 2.3 million tons, partly for use in animal feed to substitute for barley and yellow corn, the FAO said.
Barley deliveries are expected to be 7.2 million tons and corn purchases are seen at 2.2 million tons, the report showed.
The country harvested an estimated 1 million tons of wheat this year, compared with 1.1 million tons in 2011, according to the FAO.
Total cereal import requirements are forecast at 12.8 million metric tons, the Food and Agriculture Organization said, with wheat imports forecast at 2.3 million tons to maintain demand levels for milling and expand substitution of feed-quality wheat for barley and yellow corn in animal rations.
Imports of barley and corn, which are mainly used for feed, are forecast at 7.2 million tons and 2.2 million tons respectively, the FAO added. Import requirements of rice, a basic staple food which is totally imported, are forecast at above average level of about 1.3 million tons.
Production of Saudi Arabia’s 2012 wheat crop is estimated at 1 million tons, down around 9 percent on the year, the FAO said, as the country aims to phase out domestic production by 12.5 percent annually and stop growing wheat entirely by 2016.
Saudi Arabia plans to raise the storage capacity of its grain silos from the current 2.5 million tons of wheat by 27 percent over the next three years, increasing the country’s strategic reserve of wheat to cover one year of consumption. – SG
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