Saudi fisheries chiefs are casting their nets far and wide in a bid to boost the Kingdom’s burgeoning multimillion-dollar aquaculture industry. Armed with a SR1.3 billion ($350 million) development fund, officials have drawn up ambitious plans aimed at making the country self-sufficient in seafood production while at the same time expanding markets abroad.
As part of a raft of initiatives designed to stimulate investment and growth in the domestic aquaculture sector, the Kingdom has set an annual production target of 600,000 tons by 2030. Ali Al-Shaikhi, the CEO of the Saudi National Fisheries Development Program (NFDP), said: “Aquaculture in the Kingdom has steadily increased from a production level of 27,000 tons in 2016 to 77,000 tons in 2018.”
To help achieve the sector’s ambitious growth targets, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) has drawn up a Vision 2030 fisheries development plan to be implemented by the NFDP office, said Al-Shaikhi.
The project will focus on key areas of the industry through initiatives to develop local markets and products, schemes to support aquaculture infrastructure such as hatcheries and feed mills, plans to fund research and development programs to improve productivity of existing species, and studies into production techniques of new species.
The Kingdom was rich with natural resources and its 2,800 km coastline offered huge potential for marine water aquaculture, he pointed, involving giant open cages in the sea to produce finfish or coastal ponds for rearing fish and shrimp.
The NFDP was working closely with stakeholders on investment and incentive schemes to further boost the sector. “We are working on ready-to-invest packages that reduce the licensing lead time down to three months,” said Al-Shaikhi. “We’re also working with the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) to provide easier access to funding for aquaculture projects, with the SIDF looking to provide up to 75 percent funding for certain projects.”
The NFDP was also liaising with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to promote the industry to potential international investors by providing easier entry into the market, he added. “We welcome diverse and unique aquaculture projects with special preference given to the introduction of new technologies in the industry with easier funding and loan options.”
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