Minister Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli said Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per capita rates of bread consumption, and some of the lowest prices, in the world. But he spoke out against consumers throwing away large quantities of bread, with 35% going to waste, according to Arab News.
Think twice before wasting
“What we see today of bread wasting has become a behaviour that requires all of us to think twice and work to rationalise bread consumption,” said Al-Fadhli, speaking at the inauguration of a new grain silo and flour mill facility in Al-Jamoum, 18km from Mecca.
The new US$218m plant has a milling capacity of 1,200 tonnes a day, with storage for 250,000 tonnes of grain across four sets of silos, and 3,600 tonnes of flour storage. The facility covers an area of around 962,000 square metres, and can receive up to 1,000 tonnes of grain per hour.
Wheat, mostly consumed in the form of bread, is a staple in Saudi Arabia, with a per capita consumption of 87.5kg a year, according to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report released in March. The Saudi government is currently working to eliminate all domestic wheat production, and will rely only on imported wheat from 2016, in order to preserve the country’s dwindling water resources.
Shortage blame game
While Saudi Arabia has the financial capability to rely solely on imports, reports suggest the country has struggled to meet demand for wheat and flour throughout the year. The USDA report noted some observers blamed the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organisation (GSFMO) for creating a flour shortage, with subsidised flour trading at twice its official price – but GSFMO said distributors were the problem.
“The GSFMO has denied that shortages of wheat flour actually happened and blamed dishonest flour distributors for creating ‘artificial shortages’ in order to make financial gains. In responding to shortages reports, GSFMO created a hotline where bakeries could call and report if they did not receive their quotas from their assigned distributors as scheduled,” the USDA report stated.
In order to help smooth supply, and ensure food security, GSFMO has been investing heavily in new silo and flour mill facilities, with 790,000 tonnes of grain storage planned to be built between 2014 and 2016. Last year it announced a US$132m facility in Al-Ahsa, with other mill and silo projects in six more sites – including Al-Jamoum.
Last month a state-owned Saudi investment firm bought a stake in Canada’s main wheat buying organisation in a US$200m deal.