May 5, 2020 / 8:43 PM / in a month

Saudi Arabia sets $533 million for agriculture imports

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has allocated 2 billion riyals ($533.3 million) to fund importing agriculture products and secure food supplies amid coronavirus fears, the country’s agriculture development fund said on Tuesday.

The initiative, which will be carried out through a mixture of direct and indirect loans, will target in its first phase products including rice, sugar, soybeans and yellow corn. Other products will be added according to market needs and for food security, the fund said in a statement.

“This initiative ... (aims) to meet development priorities and economic needs within the urgent initiatives approved by the Saudi Government to address the impacts of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19),” the statement said.

Another goal is to “mitigate the expected economic impacts on private sectors and economic activities, including the agricultural sector,” it added.

Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly dependent on grain imports, becoming a major importer of wheat and barley, since abandoning plans in 2008 to become self-sufficient as desert farming was draining scarce water supplies.

Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang

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