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Saudi expects to import 1.9m tonnes wheat in 2011

Increase in bread consumption and decrease in local purchases is making the kingdom more dependent on imports

Reuters, Wednesday 19 Oct 2011

Saudi Arabia expects to import 1.9 million tonnes in 2011, the director general of the state-run Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organisation (GSFMO) said on Wednesday.

"Around 1.9 million tonnes this year and slightly more next year," Waleed el-Khereiji told reporters on the sidelines of a Russian grain conference in Egypt.

The increase in imports is due to an increase in consumption and a decrease in local purchases.

"For sure consumption is increasing due to the increase in population and due to the decrease of procurement from the interior market," el-Khereiji said.

In its latest wheat tender, Saudi Arabia bought 660,000 tonnes of wheat from Australia, the EU, Canada and the United States for shipment between November 2011 and February 2012, the GSFMO said on Sunday.

Only 2 per cent of Saudi Arabia's wheat imports in the period from 2008 to 2011 came from Russia while 40 per cent was imported from Canada in the same period.

"We don't select countries we select wheat quality so we have specifications whoever meets them with the right prices we will welcome him in our tenders," el-Khereiji said.

Saudi Arabia plans to totally depend on wheat imports by the year 2016 to save water.

The leading oil exporter consumes about 2.9 million tonnes of wheat annually.

Local wheat procurement for 2011 is set at 1.75 million tonnes, according to a presentation distributed at the conference.

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