DUBAI- Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer SAGO said on Monday it was asking Saudi investors abroad to import 355,000 tonnes of wheat into the kingdom at a time when major food importers are seeking to increase their strategic reserves on the back of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi, the world's top oil exporter, has long encouraged its private investors to pour money into agricultural investments abroad in order to enhance the country's food security.
"The programme for agricultural investments abroad is one of the strategic food security programmes in the kingdom which aims to diversify and stabilise sources of outside food supply," SAGO Governor Ahmed al-Fares said in a statement.
Fares said the call to import quantities of wheat into Saudi aimed to make use of these investments abroad, adding that the imported wheat would have to abide by the same quality and specifications that normally apply to its purchases.
The grain would be for arrival periods between May and November and the quantity represents around 10% of Saudi Arabia's local wheat needs.
Saudi Arabia usually purchases wheat through international tenders announced by SAGO. It was unclear whether these quantities would be purchased through regular SAGO tenders in which these investors would be allowed to participate or if the process would be different.
SAGO was not immediately available to clarify.
Gulf states, dependent on imports for around 80 to 90% of their food, have poured cash into buying tens of thousands of hectares of cheap farmland and other agricultural assets abroad to enhance their food security for over a decade.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Ed Osmond) ((Alaa.Swilam@thomsonreuters.com; 00201116281191))