DUBAI- Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer SAGO has set a Nov. 30 deadline for qualification applications from investors interested in the sale of its flour mills, it said on Wednesday.
The sale, among the kingdom's first privatisations and a litmus test for other state asset sales to follow, began its so-called qualifying phase on Aug. 26.
SAGO said the deadline for queries regarding the qualification phase is Nov. 15 and that applications of interest must be submitted by Nov. 30, ahead of the formal bidding phase.
Part of a wide-reaching overhaul of the Saudi economy, the sale of the flour mills has drawn interest from some of the world's largest agribusiness companies.
Interest from big players in the grain market has been stoked by Saudi Arabia's increasing dependence on grain imports. The kingdom has become a major importer of wheat and barley since plans to become self-sufficient were abandoned in 2008 because farming in the desert was draining scarce water supplies.
The four mills up for sale come under the kingdom's SAGO monopoly, which is one of the world's largest wheat and barley buyers and imports Saudi Arabia's entire wheat supply of about 3.5 million tonnes a year.
SAGO has said that Saudi wheat demand is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.2 percent to reach 4.5 million tonnes by 2025, largely because of population growth.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan Editing by David Goodman) ((Maha.Dahan@thomsonreuters.com; + 9712 4082101; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))