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USDA GAIN: Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed

03 April 2012

USDA GAIN: Saudi Arabia Grain and Feed Annual 2012USDA GAIN: Saudi Arabia Grain and Feed Annual 2012

In MY 2012/2013, Saudi Arabia wheat production is forecasted to decline by 9 percent to one million metric tons (MMT) compared to 1.1 MMT of MY 2011/2012 level. Saudi Arabia’s total MY 2012/2013 wheat import is forecasted to reach 2.5 million MT due to the increased feed quality wheat imports for animal consumption.
USDA GAIN Report - Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed

Saudi Arabia’s barley imports for 2012/2013 is forecasted to decrease by 9 percent to 6.5 million MT compared to 7.2 million MT in 2011/2012. This is mainly due to the expected increase in feed grade wheat imports. Saudi rice import for 2012/2013 is forecasted to reach about 1.1 million MT which is an increase of three percent compared to1,068 thousand MT of 2010/2011 import level.



Saudi Arabia wheat production in MY 2012/2013 is anticipated to decline by 9 percent to one million metric tons (MT) compared to MY 2011/2012 (Table I). The Saudi Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO) is committed to implement the Saudi government’s decree number 335 which has aimed at phasing out domestic wheat production by 12.5 percent reduction annually with the goal of terminating domestic wheat production by 2016. Therefore, Saudi Arabia augments the reduction in domestic wheat production by importing from the international wheat market. Also, the government will maintain its guaranteed purchase price for domestic wheat producers at $266.67 per metric ton until 2016. In reality, domestic wheat farmers receive a net payment of $240 per MT after 5 percent deduction for Zakhat (Islamic religious tax) and another five percent deduction for foreign matters (impurity).

Table I: Saudi Wheat Production 2011-2006
Production Year Saudi Wheat Production in Million Metric Ton (MMT)
2011 1.1
2010 1.2
2009 0.95
2008 1.72
2007 2.35
2006 2.63
Source: GSFMO and Ministry of Agriculture


Wheat is one of the most important staple grains in Saudi Arabia where most of it is consumed in the form of pita\flat bread and other types of European bread such as French baguettes, hamburger buns, and toast.

Total Saudi food wheat consumption in MY 2012/2013 is forecasted to increase by two percent to about 2.9 million MT compared to the consumption level in MY 2010/2011.

The consumption of feed quality wheat as animal feed has been increasing for the past two years and expected to reach about 700 thousand MT by the end of MY 2012/1213 which will increase total domestic wheat consumption by 21 percent compared to MY 2010/2011. A leading domestic animal feed processor is using feed quality wheat to replace barley and yellow corn in its animal feed production. Feed quality wheat that is imported by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and sold directly to domestic animal farmers as substitute to feed barley.


Wheat Imports

GSFMO is the Saudi government agency which is responsible for purchasing wheat, milling and distribution of wheat flour domestically.

Saudi Arabia’s total MY 2012/2013 wheat import is forecasted to reach 2.5 million metric tons of which 1.8 million metric tons is imported by GSFMO for human consumption. GSFMO imports food wheat through international wheat import tenders that are sent by fax directly to major wheat exporters who are registered at GSFMO. The prospective wheat suppliers should respond to GSFMO by fax within five calendar days.

GSFMO does not deal with domestic grain suppliers or international/domestic wheat brokers. GSFMO has been importing wheat with 14 and 12.5 percent protein content at seller’s option mostly from EU, Canada, U.S. and Australia. However, GSFMO has occasionally received some high quality wheat shipments from Brazil, Argentina, Latvia and Lithuania.

Since MY 2011/2012, MOF and some domestic animal feed processors have been imported feed quality wheat with up to 11 percent protein content. However, imports of feed grade wheat are not included on Saudi Arabia’s official food wheat tenders, which are regularly issued by GSFMO. The MOF feed quality wheat has been imported mostly from Ukraine while major domestic feed processors have been importing the wheat from Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Domestic animal feed importers started imported feed grade wheat following Saudi government’s decree of July 2011 which included feed grade wheat in Saudi Arabia’s imported animal feed subsidy list. Thus far, the Saudi government has neither established the subsidy level it plans to pay for feed grade wheat imports nor sets the minimum protein and energy contents that feed wheat should contain to qualify for the import subsidy.

According to some domestic animal feed nutritionists, the government is considering to establish the protein and energy contents for imported feed quality wheat at 9.5 percent and 3,100 per MT respectively. The government has not so far paid any import subsidies to domestic importers for their imports of feed quality wheat. Domestic animal feed importers say that future imports of feed grade wheat will mainly depend on the amount of the import subsidy that the Saudi government will pay as well as its international price compared to barley and yellow corn.

February 15, 2012 Wheat Imports Tender

On February 15, 2012, GSFMO issued its last MY2011 to import 330,000 MT of wheat with a 12.5 protein content that will arrive in Saudi ports by the end of June 2012. The February 15 wheat tender puts the total of GSFMO MY 2011/2012 wheat imports at 1.32 million MT.

Results of February 15, 2012 Wheat Imports Tender

  • The tender was issued at Seller’s option which allowed wheat exporters the options of supplying the required wheat from one or all of the GSFMO’s approved regions or countries namely: the U.S., EU, Canada and Australia.
  • A total of 6 vessels each carrying 55,000 metric tons of 12.5 protein content wheat will be delivered their shipments through the two major Saudi ports Jeddah and Dammam during the period from May 10 to June 30, 2012.
  • The average purchase price for the 12.5 percent protein content wheat was $320.44 per metric ton.


Domestic food wheat ending stock will decrease by 20 percent in MY 2012/2013 due to reduced imports of food grade wheat in MY 201/2012 compared to imports in MY 2010/2011.

GSFMO owns and operates 12 silo complexes in major cities around the country with a total combined storage capacity of 2.5 million MT. GSFMO plans to increase wheat storage capacity to 3.5 million MT by 2016. In January 2012, GSFMO signed a $149.3 million contracts to build a 120,000 MT wheat storage silos and a flour mill with a daily milling capacity of 600 MT at a Jizan Port. Both projects will be operational in 2014.

Currently, GSFMO maintains ending stock that covers at least a six month domestic consumption level. The GSFMO aims at gradually increasing the country’s wheat reserves to cover one year of domestic consumption by 2016.


The 2008 Saudi government decision to terminate domestic wheat production by 2016 was a drastic change in the country’s longstanding policy of self-sufficiency in wheat production which it has pursued since the early 1980s. The policy helped Saudi Arabia achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production in 1985. At that time, the country banned imports of bulk wheat and flour (with the exception of small retail packs of flour and some specialized flour for baking). According to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the main reason for changing the domestic wheat production policy was concerns over the depletion of fossil water since the crop is grown on 100 percent central pivot irrigation. Wheat production places large demands on underground non-renewable aquifer water, which caused an increasing imbalance between water recharge and water discharge. As a result, the underground water level in the aquifer has fallen in grain-and forage-producing regions.


GSFMO is the only food wheat importer, miller, marketer and distributor in Saudi Arabia. Domestic licensed bakeries and supermarkets purchase their weekly wheat flour requirements from GSFMO’s flour mills that are located in their respective cities or from appointed agents in their regions. Retail stores purchase retail packed wheat flour from wholesalers. Consumers purchase 2 to 45 kilograms packed wheat flour in bags from nearby supermarkets and wholesalers.

Wheat Flour Wholesale Prices

GSFMO is responsible for milling wheat and marketing wheat flour domestically. Listed below are the current wholesale prices of five types of wheat flours that are produced by the GSFMO.

Wheat Flour Type Extraction Ratio Percent (%) Price Per 45 KG in US$
Patent Flour 70-75% 7.47
Flour Powder 75-80% 5.87
Plain Flour 85% 5.33
Improved Whole Wheat 90% 8.00
Whole Wheat 95% 8.00
Source: GSFMO



In 2003, the Saudi government terminated its domestic barley production subsidy program which brought to an end a two decade long domestic commercial barley production. Currently, 25,000 metric tons of barley is produced domestically for human consumption.


Domestic barley consumption in 2012/2013 is forecasted to decline by 9 percent to 6.3 million MT compared to about 7 million in 2011/2012 due to mainly the recent introduction of feed grade wheat that is being used as a barley substitute in the feed ration. Traditionally, white barley has been the preferred animal feed for domestic bedouins and approximately 80 percent of imported barley is used in feeding sheep, camels, and goats, especially when pasture conditions are poor and barley prices are lower than other feed products. Future barley consumption in Saudi Arabia is expected to fluctuate based on its price competitiveness compared to other feed alternatives such as feed grade wheat, processed feed and other feed alternatives such as forage. For example, if a price of 50 kg of barley is higher than the domestically produced feed concentrates of the same weight, a large number of livestock farmers switch to feed concentrates. The barley shortage in 2010/2011 compelled large number of domestic livestock farmers particularly camels, sheep and goats farmers to switch to a locally manufactured processed feed known as Wafi. The product, which was introduced in 2007 by ARASCO, the leading animal feed producer in Saudi Arabia, is marketed as a complete animal feed consisting of cereals, wheat bran, soybean meal, molasses, alfalfa, minerals and vitamins. Currently, 50 kg of Wafi is sold at $11.20 and a MT for $224 at ARASCO’s distribution facilities.



Saudi Arabia’s barley imports for 2012/2013 is forecasted to decrease by 9 percent to 6.5 million MT compared 7.2 million MT in 2011/2012 to mainly due to the expected increase in feed grade wheat imports as soon as the Saudi government issues feed grade wheat import specifications and sets its import subsidy level for MT of imported feed grade wheat. The Saudi government is expected to issue both feed grade wheat quality specifications and subsidy rate in the next few months. Saudi Arabia, which remained the largest feed barley importers in the world, has been importing more than 7.5 million MT annually for the past several years. However, barley imports in 2010/2011 were down to 5.5 million MT due to some logistical problems that MOF faced when it became the exclusive importer and distributor of barley by withdrawing barley import licenses from 11 domestic barley importers. It took some time for the MOF to acquaint itself with the international barley trade as well as develop efficient domestic barley distribution networks which contributed in drastic reduction in barley imports in 2010/2011. Initially, the MOF appointed one domestic barley importer to distribute imported barley. However, the importer’s facilities were not capable of efficiently distributing all imported barley throughout the Kingdom. As a result, several thousand MT of barley were piled up at the Kingdom’s major port for lack of adequate storage and distribution channels. To solve the domestic barley distribution problems, the MOF in 2011/2012 signed contracts with several major former barley importers to pack imported barley and distribute it to end users under MOF’s direct supervision. This new approach resulted in an efficient distribution of imported barley and facilitated in the resumption of barley imports to meet the high domestic demand for barley.

In 2011/2012 the MOF signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine Minister of Agriculture for long term supply of barley. Even though the MOF has not released detailed information on the Saudi-Ukraine long term barley supply contract, domestic newspapers indicated that Saudi Arabia has options to import up to 7 million MT of grains mostly barley from Ukraine.

Ukraine, which has been the dominant barley supplier to Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, commenced some feed grade wheat exports to Saudi Arabia in TY2011.


Barley ending stock in 2012/2013 is forecasted to increase by 37 percent compared to stock level in 2010/2011 due to the increase in barley imports and to the increase of consumption of feed grade wheat as well as processed animal feed such as Wafi. MOF aims at maintaining more than three months of total barley domestic consumption as a strategic reserve.


In 2008, the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) announced Saudi Arabia’s animal feed policy that included a 50 percent reduction in barley imports by 2015. To achieve this goal, the government announced in 2008 a decision to include 17 energy and protein rich animal feed ingredients in its long standing imported animal feed subsidy program. Prior to 2008, the Saudi government paid import subsidies for only imports of yellow corn, soybean meal and barley. Since 2008, the government has revised the imported animal feed subsidy list four times. The most recent amendment to the imported animal feed subsidy was announced on July 27, 2011 which increased subsidies paid on imported several animal feed by 100 percent. The list included 31 animal feed ingredients of which 14 were new feed ingredients such as Dried Distillers Grain with Soluble (DDGS), and Corn Gluten Feed (CGF). According to the July 2011 Saudi imported feed decree, the imported animal feed receives rebates which range between $49.33 and $202.13 per metric ton, depending on the feed type based on the energy and protein contents of each feed ingredient. This means, the higher the protein and energy levels a feed ingredient contains, the more subsidy the Saudi government pays for the import of that particular feed ingredient. For example table III shows that imported soybean meal (48% Protein and 2,450 energy content per MT) receives the highest subsidy rate of $202.13 per MT. On the other hand, imported barley straw (2% protein and 1500 energy per MT) receives the lowest government import subsidy rate of $49.33.

The Saudi government believes that including the additional products on the imported animal feed subsidy program would encourage the establishment of new animal feed processing factories. In addition, it will assist in the expansion of existing ones and help provide domestic livestock producers with more nutritious feeds as well as create more employment opportunities. It, also, will lead to the drastic reduction in the demand for barley imports in the next few years.

However, barley, the main animal feed grain in Saudi Arabia, was not included on the new subsidy list since it is exclusively imported by MOF. The MOF has the authority to purchase barley at the prevailing international prices and sell to domestic end users at the government established price of $192 per MT at its packing facilities. Since there is no limit as to how much the MOF is authorized to pay as a subsidy for imported barley as well as there is no plans to increase the government’s domestic barley selling price, the price of imported barley will remain cheaper compared to locally processed animal feed and will not reduce the demand for imported barley drastically. As such, trade sources do not believe that the government will be able to achieve its goal of 50 percent reduction in barley imports by 2015 if it does not significantly reduce its subsidy on imported barely.

The MOF’s recent decision to import and distribute feed grade wheat is more effective in reducing the demand for barley but will not help in increasing the production of locally processed animal feed since it basically substitutes feed quality wheat for barley. Therefore, leading domestic animal feed processors believe that the best way to decrease the domestic demand for barely is through increasing the government’s barley selling price and limit imports of feed quality wheat to domestic animal feed processors for use in their animal feed formulations. Major domestic feed processors have started using imported feed grain wheat to replace barley and yellow corn in some of their animal feed formulations.


Since early 2010\2011, MOF has been responsible for purchasing barley from international market, pack it in a 50 kg bag and selling it to domestic livestock farmers at $9.60 per 50 kg or $192 per MT at packing facilities. The maximum retail price for 50 kg and MT of barley is $10.67 or $213.40, respectively. The MOF has hired former barley importers to pack the imported barley and distribute it to MOF authorized buyers under MOF direct supervision.

Rice, Milled


Saudi Arabia does not produce rice because it requires a lot of water which is a scarce resource domestically.


Rice is the main dish served in Saudi Arabia. It is served two times a day (for lunch and dinner.) Kapsa, a preparation of chicken/lamb & rice, is the favorite rice dish in the country. In 2010, the per capita rice consumption was estimated at 43 kg a year.

Rice and wheat are basic staple foods in Saudi Arabia and consumption of both is expected to grow significantly in the next few years due to an annual population growth rate of 3 percent and the increasing number of Ummra visitors and pilgrims coming to Mecca. More than five million pilgrims come to Mecca each year to perform Ummra and Hajj rituals.


Saudi rice import for 2012\2013 is forecast to reach about 1.1 million MT which is an increase of three percent compared to 2010\2011 import level. India has continued to dominate the Saudi rice market with an estimated 59 percent market share in 2010/2011, followed by Pakistan (16%), U.S. (13%) and Thailand (9%) Saudi rice imports. The combined Australia and Egyptian rice exports to Saudi Arabia is estimated at 3 percent of the total rice imports. Over the past several years, India has benefited most from the shift in Saudi consumers’ preferences for rice which have been shifted from long grain white basmati rice to long grain parboiled or sella or muzza basmati rice because of its ease to cook.

Traditionally, the U.S. long grain rice dominated the U.S. rice varieties exports to Saudi Arabia. However, imports of U.S. medium grain rice has been increasing significantly since 2008. In 2010\2011, the total U.S rice exports to Saudi Arabia reached about 140 thousand MT of which long and short grain rice accounted for 74 and 25 percent, respectively. In 2000, the U.S. medium grain rice accounted for only 9 percent of the total U.S. rice exports to Saudi Arabia.

The quantity of U.S. rice exports to Saudi Arabia fluctuates depending on its price competitiveness compared to prices of Indian parboiled basmati rice. Consumers in Saudi Arabia tend to switch easily to Indian sella (parboiled) basmati rice if the price difference of long grain parboiled U.S. rice is insignificant compared to the price of Indian sella basmati rice.

March 2012

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