- Aquaculture has potential to provide food security for nation, says leader of fisheries development program
RIYADH: Saudi fisheries chiefs are casting their nets far and wide in a bid to boost the Kingdom’s burgeoning multimillion-dollar aquaculture industry. Armed with a SR1.3 billion ($350 million) development fund, officials have drawn up ambitious plans aimed at making the country self-sufficient in seafood production while at the same time expanding markets abroad.
As part of a raft of initiatives designed to stimulate investment and growth in the domestic aquaculture sector, the Kingdom has set an annual production target of 600,000 tons by 2030.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Ali Al-Shaikhi, the CEO of the Saudi National Fisheries Development Program (NFDP), said: “Aquaculture in the Kingdom has steadily increased from a production level of 27,000 tons in 2016 to 77,000 tons in 2018.
“But it is important to understand that aquaculture is not a linear growth industry and there may be times when production is no higher than the year before.
“However, we believe the industry has the potential to provide food security and self-sufficiency for the nation and meet the growing demand for seafood in the Kingdom.”
To help achieve the sector’s ambitious growth targets, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) has drawn up a Vision 2030 fisheries development plan to be implemented by the NFDP office, said Al-Shaikhi.
The project will focus on key areas of the industry through initiatives to develop local markets and products, schemes to support aquaculture infrastructure such as hatcheries and feed mills, plans to fund research and development programs to improve productivity of existing species, and studies into production techniques of new species.
“We are also working with local universities to ensure that the industry’s growing demand for workers is met with local talent,” the chief executive added.
Working with the private sector the program aims to help hit the 600,000 tons target by 2030. Al-Shaikhi said the NFDP had a dedicated budget of SR1.3 billion through to 2021-22 to help fund various initiatives.