Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest importer of barley, reported a 3.2 percent increase in purchases of foreign food in July as local demand climbed before the start of the religious month of Ramadan.Food shipments to the Arab world’s biggest economy rose to 1.78 million tonnes - the highest since the start of the year - from 1.72 million tonnes in July 2010, the Saudi Port Authority in Riyadh said on its website on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia relies on imports to feed its population of 27 million. Food consumption reaches its peak in the Sunni-Muslim kingdom during Ramadan, which began on August 1.
Food imports in the first seven months of 2011 fell to 9.54 million tonnes from 11.7 million tonnes a year earlier, the data showed. Saudi Arabia imported less barley this year as stockpiles of grain that were bought in 2010, when prices were low, were sold off.
New letters of credit for grain imports declined this year compared with 2010, central bank data show. According to Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency figures released on August 25, new letters of credit for grain importers were SR270 million ($72 million) in July compared SR522 million a year ago.Saudi Arabia’s food imports are expected to rise in the second half as the country imports between 7 million and 7.5 million metric tonnes of barley in 2011, Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf told reporters on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.The country seeks long-term contracts for barley imports and is also looking at agriculture investment in Ukraine, al-Assaf said. The government is also increasing imports of wheat this year.
From / Arabian Business News