Food Insecurity in GCC
Saudi Arabia is the biggest and most populous of all GCC countries. Consequently, KSA is the region’s most burdened in terms of food insecurity. This burden can be attributed to a lack and depletion of natural resources, barriers to food imports (conflicts in surrounding areas, bans or occasional restrictions on foreign trade of food by exporting countries) and unpredictable global food price fluctuations. These factors have taken a toll on the country’s economic situation and highlighted the need to tap the booming market for aquaculture in Saudi Arabia.
Using Domestically Available, Healthy Food Resources:
In a time of food insecurity, it is essential for the country to capitalize on its natural resources. Moreover, Saudi Arabia possesses one of the largest shelf areas in the world (95 040 km²). The coastline is 2,320 km long and borders the Red Sea and a bulk of the Arabian Sea.
Other GCC countries have been slow to realize that fish (protein consumption) could help mitigate the food insecurity crisis. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the only country to embrace widespread aquaculture implementation.
Aquaculture in Saudi Arabia accounts for 26% of the Saudi Arabian fisheries market. While this rate is well below the global average of 50%, it is comfortably above peers like UAE, and others, whose global averages range from 0% to 1%.
Saudi Arabia is the second largest producer of fish in the GCC. Fisheries in Saudi Arabia accounted for 97,348 metric tons of fish in 2013. Of this around 25,402 metric tons was developed through the relatively new methods of aquaculture, and another 71,946 through traditional, mostly artisanal capture fishing.
Despite Low(er) Per Capita Consumption Rates, the Demand will Continue to Rise:
Saudi Arabia is the second largest producer of fish in the Gulf after Oman. However, Saudi’s fish consumption rate, of 10.3 kg per capita, was way below other top two consumers of fish, United Arab Emirates, 33 kg per capita, and Oman, 28.5 kg per capita in 2013. These rates have had a far-reaching effect on Aquaculture in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia does not have enough fish to satiate the local demand. Expats, natives struggling with NCDs and a health-conscious younger population attribute to the continually rising domestic demand of fisheries in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has refocused its attention on developing the much-neglected GCC aquaculture and fisheries sector, which is struggling because of overfishing (tragedy of commons. Artisanal fisher folk, large and medium scale trawlers and others who overexploit the same fishing areas and affect the market for aquaculture in Saudi Arabia. This has forced the government to make efforts to provide free fingerlings and samples for aquaculture to stakeholders who look to set up businesses in fisheries in Saudi Arabia.
The government also offers technical assistance, marketing and training support and investment in infrastructure for processing units for fisheries. Combine this with a global rise in fish prices, and a global decrease in capture fisheries, a sparsely population competitive space due to non-consolidated supply and value chains, and you realize that now is the best time to invest in the Saudi, and in turn the GCC aquaculture sector.