Food security in Saudi Arabia

Food security refers to the state of providing physical, social and economic access to food to all individuals at all times, to ensure that they have sufficient quantities of safe food rich in nutrients necessary to ensure a healthy life. The world is witnessing a deterioration in food security, with more than 950 million people suffering from hunger. This deterioration is due to multiple factors such as the inability to increase land use, climate change and water scarcity. Specifically in the context of sustainable development, defined by the United Nations, eliminating hunger is an important goal to be achieved by 2030.

In this context, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia achieved a prestigious ranking in the world in the field of food security, as it ranked eighth globally in terms of the abundance of food security and achieved advanced positions in other indicators.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom’s ability to provide sustainable, high-quality food has emerged, making it occupy a prominent position on the international scene. The Kingdom, in cooperation with the World Bank and the World Food Program, has provided food support in a large amount to confront the food security crisis in Sudan. In the first quarter of 2022, the Kingdom provided significant funding to the agricultural sector, including support for broiler chickens, greenhouses, aquaculture, date factories, agricultural assets, and agri-tourism, in addition to strengthening veterinary infrastructure. Many paths can be taken to achieve food security, such as effectively increasing agricultural production, supporting farmers in obtaining the necessary inputs, and investing in research to improve agricultural performance and enhance quality of life.

Dimensions of food security:

  • SavingsThis aspect indicates the urgent need to provide sufficient quantities of food, supported by the presence of a strategic stock that ensures that the needs of all individuals are met.

  • Food safety: This dimension relates to ensuring the safety and health of food, so that it is ready for human consumption without compromising its quality.

  • Possibility of obtaining it: This aspect indicates the importance of reasonable prices, which facilitates access to food products for individuals, whether through availability in the markets or by providing support to the poor classes.

  • Stability: This dimension focuses on the need to maintain stability in food conditions, with the urgent need to maintain a balance between the previous three dimensions without exposing them to fluctuations that may negatively affect food security.

Food security challenges:

  • Global water crisis: Water scarcity and its uneven distribution pose a major challenge to producing food in sufficient quantities and of appropriate quality.

  • Land neglect: Neglect and misuse of land reduce its agricultural potential, which negatively affects its ability to produce food.

  • Climate fluctuations and change: The impact of climate change reduces food production and increases stress on natural resources.

  • Plant diseases and their lack of control: The spread of diseases among crops poses a challenge as it leads to a reduction in agricultural production.

  • Corruption and injustice: The spread of corruption and inequality in society contributes to undermining efforts to achieve food security and distribute food fairly.

  • Population inflation: Dramatically increasing human populations place additional pressures on food resources, exacerbating the challenges of providing food to human populations.

Objectives of the food security strategy in the Kingdom:

The objectives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strategy include 5 objectives:

  • Access to a food system based on local production and sustainability: The Kingdom seeks to achieve a food system based primarily on local production, with an emphasis on sustainability, especially with regard to premium goods.

  • Ensuring stability of external food sources and enhancing diversity: The strategy aims to achieve stability in food sources from abroad and enhance diversity in these sources, with the aim of achieving comprehensive food security.

  • Achieving the highest quality of safe and sound food: The strategy focuses on achieving the best food quality, with an emphasis on food safety, and promoting awareness of healthy nutrition.

  • Develop plans to address food safety risks: It is concerned with preparing clear plans to deal with food safety risks, with the aim of preparing for and confronting any potential challenges.

  • Developing an institutional model to enhance food security: The proposed institutional model aims to stimulate the development of food security at the Kingdom level, by organizing and directing efforts and resources towards achieving specific goals

Food security programs in the Kingdom:

Sustainable Agriculture Program:

It aims to promote sustainable agricultural practices and improve local agricultural production, which contributes to enhancing food security.

Food Processing Program:

It aims to strengthen the local food processing industry, and diversify the products available in the local market.

Program to stop waste and reduce losses:

Focuses on developing strategies to control food waste and reduce losses during production and distribution processes.

Executive Nutrition Program:

It seeks to improve nutrition awareness and promote healthy eating habits among the population.

Different food safety nets:

It includes developing and organizing food security networks to achieve effective and equitable distribution of food resources.

Food Safety and Security Program:

It focuses on ensuring the safety of the food produced and preventive measures to avoid health risks.

Early warning programme:

It aims to develop an effective early warning system regarding any threats that may affect food security.

Crisis management program:

It deals with planning and responding to any crises that may affect food supplies and emergency solutions.

Strategic Food Stock Program:

It includes establishing strategic stocks to ensure the availability of food in emergency situations.

Executive Governance Program:

Addresses improving governance structures for implementing relevant policies and programmes.

Capacity Implementation Program:

It aims to develop the skills and capabilities of human cadres in the field of food safety.

There are more programs nominated to enhance private sector participation in building a food security strategy, including:

  • Buffer stock program.
  • Food cooperation programme.
  • International agricultural sector investment programme.
  • Program to raise sustainable agricultural productivity.
  • Feed manufacturing program.
  • Nutrition safety insurance program.

Achieving food security in the Kingdom according to Vision 2030:

Achieving food security in the Kingdom according to Vision 2030 is based on a set of steps and goals that seek to enhance the ability to provide food in a sustainable and effective manner. The efforts made include the following:

Focus on food security and natural resources issues:

The Kingdom pays great attention to food security issues within the framework of Vision 2030, with a focus on water and agricultural security, in addition to ensuring environmental balance in the region.

Cooperation with regional and international organizations:

One of the goals is to raise the level of targeting of food security through cooperation with regional and international organizations relevant to this sector.

Expanding the agricultural area:

It aims to increase the agricultural area in the Kingdom to enhance its role in agricultural development and raise the rate of natural resources.

Development of food chains:

It focuses on improving and developing food chains to achieve more efficient production and reduce food waste.

Achieving sustainable food security:

It seeks to achieve sustainable food security by implementing sustainable agriculture strategies and enhancing local production.

Reducing waste:

It involves effectively identifying and reducing expected waste, with a focus on reducing food waste and increasing consumption value and productivity.

Natural resource development:

It works to provide local agricultural resources and enhance access to resources, including the provision of locally manufactured foods.

The Kingdom has achieved food security, and has moved from the stage of sufficiency to the stage of abundance, as these efforts reflect the success in achieving the goals included within the Food Security Strategy and its eleventh programmes.

The following table shows the most important indicators of food security in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the year (2020_2021):

Indicator 2020 2021
Undernourishment index 3.9% 3.7%
Index of the number of people suffering from malnutrition 1.3 million people 1.3 million people
Savings index 3303 3302
Average adequacy of dietary energy supply 136% 136%


The Kingdom has developed a strategy to achieve food security goals. The strategy is expected to be implemented over a period of 15 years (2017-2030) at a cost of 3.7 billion Saudi riyals during the first five years. The strategy is as follows:

workplan Budget for 5 years (million riyals)
Achieving a sustainable local food production system 360
Sustainable agricultural production and food industry 130
Food loss and waste 230
Achieving diversity and stability of external food sources 1970
Food trade program and cooperation mechanisms 150
Agricultural investment abroad 1820
Ensuring access to safe food in the Kingdom and encouraging balanced eating habits 60
nutrition 50
Social safety nets 0
Food Safety 10
Building capabilities to address risks related to food security 1240
Early warning and emergency management system 10
Strategic stock 1230
Developing an institutional business model at the national level and ensuring clear governance 40
Governance system 20
building abilities 20

The food security strategy included sustainable agricultural production initiatives, a set of goals and targeted goods, which are as follows:

  •  Milk.
  •  Red meat.
  •  Wheat.
  •  Dates.
  •  Fruits and vegetables.
  •  Fish.
  •  Poultry.

Regarding the program’s objectives, these objectives included a set of important points, focusing on achieving local self-sufficiency in some key sectors, promoting sustainable practices, and supporting small farmers. These goals were embodied in the following points:


Achieving local self-sufficiency goals:

  • Achieving a sufficiency rate of 60% in poultry and fish production, and 10% in wheat production.
  • Maintaining self-sufficiency levels of dates and fresh milk.

Achieving sustainable production goals:  Adopting sustainable practices in production processes to ensure continuity and conserve resources.

Supporting agricultural activities for small farmers: Providing support and encouragement to small farmers through initiatives and programs that enhance their sustainability and link them to food supply chains.

With regard to strategic goods, the Kingdom has been able to achieve high rates of self-sufficiency in some important sectors such as:

Milk and dairy products:

  • Milk self-sufficiency in the ratio of 80-90%.
  • Self-sufficiency in dairy products by 11%.

fruits and vegetables:

  • Self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables 65%.
  • Self-sufficiency in frozen/dried fruits and vegetables by 11%.


  • Fish self-sufficiency 26%.
  • Self-sufficiency in canned fish by 21%.

Red meat: Self-sufficiency in red meat by 43%.

Regarding the incentives provided by the government to promote the growth of the agri-food industry, these incentives include:

simplifying procedures: Simplifying legal and administrative procedures to facilitate the establishment of food processing companies.

Food industry clusters: Developing food industry clusters in industrial areas.

building abilities: Providing incubation programs, technical expertise, and workshops to develop capabilities.

Financial incentives: Granting loans to cooperative societies and investors in the local food industry sector.

These efforts have led to a range of positive impacts, including increased resilience in the food supply chain, improved shelf life of goods, reduced food waste, and enhanced economic diversification.

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