Nathan Guy, New Zealand’s minister for primary industries, visited the site for the agribusiness service hub and demonstration farm in Dammam earlier this month, saying that once completed, the facility will be the first of its kind for New Zealand.
“This farm development of these sandy plains is impressive,” Guy told the Saudi minister of agriculture during his trip to the kingdom. “It will comprise 15 centre pivot irrigators, a feed mill, a sheep breeding operation, a lamb and cattle finishing feedlot, and processing facility.
“The demonstration farm will also be a model for vertical integration, from cropping to fresh meat supply to the local market. It will be a full showcase of New Zealand agritech including technical services, farming systems, animal health, on-farm equipment, genetics and farm expertise. New Zealand will also provide a genetics programme which will include animals for breeding.”
The scale of this farm, and the potential it holds for New Zealand business in Saudi, is significant. A broad range of New Zealand agribusiness companies are expected to be involved in the demonstration farm and it is hoped that the first services will be installed in Damman by mid-year.
It is also expected that the farm will create other opportunities for Kiwi companies, including fast-track partnerships between New Zealand and GCC businesses, and quite possibly open up significant opportunities for New Zealand companies elsewhere in the Arab world.
The minister said it will also provide a much stronger market presence for the export of chilled lamb from New Zealand to Saudi Arabic.
Guy had earlier signed a protocol with the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture to provide a framework for export of livestock for breeding purposes.
“The protocol will regulate the export of live sheep, goats and cattle from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia for breeding purposes,” Guy said. “It covers animal welfare requirements relating to either sea or air freight, and contains a guarantee that the animals will be allowed to disembark upon reaching their destination.”
While New Zealand ceased exporting live sheep for slaughter in 2003, the export of livestock for breeding purposes has continued to grow with cattle, sheep and horses all shipped or air freighted every year.
New Zealand has agreed livestock import health conditions with dozens of countries, and dairy cows are mainly sea freighted to China, where just over 35,000 were exported in 2013. Sheep exports for breeding averaged around 400 a year and nearly 3,000 race horses are air freighted annually.
“Following this signing, it is expected that the first research breeding flock of sheep from New Zealand will be air freighted before Christmas in order to commence the new Saudi hub operation. The protocol… is a key part of ensuring the success of the agribusiness hub in Dammam, and cementing in our future relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Guy added.