GCC countries are announcing new initiatives to increase the region’s share in the USD 220 billion global organic food market. The Gulf’s own market is estimated at around USD 300 million, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the area’s largest food consumer, representing almost 90 per cent of the sector.
There are currently over 3,000 outlets dedicated to organic and natural products across the Gulf, with rising regional prioritization of health and safety expected to boost this figure within the next few years. Saudi Arabia has been leading regional efforts to further grow the organic foods business. The country’s private sector has already established a Saudi Organic Farming Association to oversee the development of organic food, using a SAR 15 million seed fund. Saudi investments in organic food were valued at approximately USD 267 million in 2009.
Riyadh-based Al Watania Agricultural Company, the first ISO 9001 Quality Management -certified agricultural company in the Middle East, intends to help sustain the Kingdom’s pioneering position in the region’s organic foods and natural products industry. In 1999 the company decided to stop using chemicals and artificial fertilizers and focus exclusively on organic methods such as the use of pest insect repellants and animal manure.
“For more than a decade we have proven that there is indeed a strong niche for organic foods in the region. But beyond being just a lucrative business, organic foods enable Al Watania to realize our Chairman Sheikh Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi’s vision of providing only the healthiest, safest and most trustworthy food to the Saudi consumer. We can see this philosophy being adopted by a growing number of Arab countries as well, with Gulf members in particular rapidly turning the region into a key global market for healthy and natural food products,” said Ibrahim Abouabat, General Manager, Al Watania.
Officially endorsed by French organic certification organization ECOCERT, Al Watania’s organic products are of such high quality that they are seeing major demand throughout Europe and Asia. The company continues to develop enhanced standards for organic produce through its four agricultural farms at the Al Jouf, Al Qassim and Wadi Al Dawaser regions. Al Watania recently inked a deal to boost the visibility of its products at the Saudi branches of French international hypermarket chain Carrefour as part of its expansion efforts across the Kingdom.