Saudis target agri as diversification play

The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company has actively acquiring food and agribusiness assets since 2011.

Saudi Arabia will continue to buy foreign agri assets to ensure its food security, as it implements a plan to limit its dependence on oil exports over the next 15 years, Agri Investor reports.

The country will continue to invest abroad to protect itself from volatile global food markets. “We will continue to build safe and sufficient strategic food reserves, to better guard against emergencies,” according to an English translation of its Vision 2030 plan released by state-owned media Al Arabiya English.

With oil prices continuing to slump, the kingdom plans to sell a 5 percent stake in Aramco, the state-owned oil company valued at $2 trillion, and diversify its economy over the next 15 years.

The diversification plan outlined in Vision 2030, aims to raise the share of non-oil exports from 16 percent to 50 percent of GDP. Central to the program is a transfer of ownership of Aramco to the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The Saudis hope to build the PIF into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, increasing its assets under management from 600 billion riyals ($160 billion; €141.7 billion) to more than 7 trillion riyals ($1.87 trillion; €1.65 trillion).

By broadening its investment base, the kingdom hopes the PIF can fund the government without taxing Saudi citizens.

The plan calls for “strategic partnerships” with countries rich in agricultural resources, in addition to promotion of aquaculture and ruling out major irrigation projects.

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