Organic Farming in Saudi Arabia Term Paper

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Chapter 3 Literature Review/Justification

Organic farming as a practice was developed by both experienced farmers and private gardeners in the early 1970's. Through trial and error, these farmers, gardeners and later, newly interested scientists, worked individually and then later as research teams to develop the holistic methods that are being used around the globe today. Conventional farming has and still is the norm for the majority of agricultural production around the world; however, the organic approach continues to make headway. Obviously each of these farming approaches come with their own unique way of doing things, but as science continues to investigate the benefits of each approach, the organic option of doing things is gaining more and more valid support.

For example, Doctor Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in Society and scientists from the University of Michigan reported that organic agriculture has the capacity to provide enough food to support the entire world's food needs. They ascertained that even with conservative estimates, there would be no need to adopt additional land areas in order to produce enough food to feed the planet as long as farmers switched to organic methods and if those switches created sufficient biologically available nitrogen to replace the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers currently being used globally. (Wan Ho, et al., 2008) Doctor Wan Ho's findings and other success stories from around the world are legitimate examples of the potential benefits organic farming could provide the nation. They are also excellent grounds for this potential full dissertation study regarding the organic approach to farming and how it could best be effectively utilized in Saudi Arabia. This research would be new and cutting edge and would differ from other proposed studies regarding Organic farming for the Saudi nation and would offer clear, concise and measurable outcomes that are critical for agricultural yield success in this field of study.

Conventional farming has become outdated. "Ecological and sustainable farming systems like organic agriculture systems could be understood as the request of a social movement, which regards itself as alternative to the established mainstream agriculture." (Michelsen et al. 2001). The organic approach would greatly increase the nation's number one export, the Saudi Arabian Palm Date. Saudi Arabia has always been blessed with the unique natural wealth from its Date production. "Dates are an important food for travelers in deserts or in the mountains because they provide them with a complete nutritious meal." (PalmWonder, 2009) the nation's date production constitutes approximately 30% of the entire world's output. and, based on the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture statistics, Saudi Arabia produces approximately one million tons of dates annually of the world's 3.1 million tons output. This dissertation would systematically incorporate aggressive and holistic production and marketing plans that would propose methods of reducing excessive yield waste which is a major problem today. Through organic farming and output distribution, Date production could become even more economical than existing processes while the organic growing methods could make the procedure dramatically more ecologically friendly. New organic production and marketing uses for Dates are just one of the many added benefits from this study.

Consider the many existing uses of the product. "Dates are easy to carry and no cooking is needed to prepare them for eating because dates are often eaten out-of-hand. Dates can also be used for cooking. They can be chopped and used in a range of sweet such as cakes and other dessert dishes and other savory dishes. Dates are also processed into paste and date syrup called 'dibs' which most likely are used in some recipes. Recent innovations include chocolate-covered dates and date juice. Date palm leaves are used for making huts, mats, screens, baskets, brooms, large hats, and fans." (Palmwonders, 2009) Global demand for organically produced fruits and vegetables and their byproducts is being driven by the popularity of organic products in the United States and the European Union. If only 50% of the annual production were to be exported as an organic final product, a conservative price of (6.00 U.S. $ per kilo) would translate into (3 billion U.S. $), and that constitutes 8.4% of today's world organic market value: This equates to roughly the total agri-food imports of Saudi Arabia.

There are many basic indicators of global food security. Indicators such as grain production per person, seafood catch per person, carryover stocks of grain, cropland reserved and the aggregate price of seafood or grain indicate that the world demand for food continues to run far ahead of the available supply.
(Brown, 1997) as can be seen in current and projected global population growth charts, the overall world population will potentially grow to be greater than 9 billion people by the year 2050.

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"The commercial industrial technologies that are used in agriculture today to feed the world... are not inherently sustainable," Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro told the Greenpeace Business Conference recently. "They have not worked well to promote either self-sufficiency or food security in developing countries." Feeding the world sustainably "is out of the question with current agricultural practice," Shapiro told the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1995. "Loss of topsoil, of salinity of soil as a result of irrigation, and ultimate reliance on petrochemicals ... are, obviously, not renewable. That clearly isn't sustainable." (Vasilikiotis, 2007).

All nations, including Saudi Arabia, will gradually be forced to create more efficient agricultural solutions to meet the ever growing global demand for food. Global concerns may already be too overwhelming for a nation with its own current population hovering just under 30 million and adding pressures on its 2.14 million square kilometers. The traditional national farming methods have not been able to keep up with the Saudi shortfalls. Overall, Saudi Arabia is the world's 19th largest agric-food importer. "In this new world of scarcity, countries that depend on imports for a large share of grain, mostly for food, are at risk… also at risk are countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which import one third to two thirds of their grain." (Brown, 1997). The country is a large consumer of bulk commodity imports as well as ingredient inputs for its growing food processing sector. With the exception of animal feed, regional import suppliers are increasingly important players in the Saudi market. The Saudi government has always needed a plan to strengthen the domestic agricultural sector with the aim of obtaining self-sufficiency in agricultural production. There has been success, particularly in dairy production and to some degree in poultry production, but the country is currently nowhere near self sufficient in regard to agricultural production. Currently, food accounts for roughly 15% of Saudi Arabia's total imports. Imports of consumer goods comprise of approximately 40% of total agricultural imports and the Saudi Arabian agric-food imports in 2004 were estimated to be $8 billion, up from $6.3 billion in 2003. The country's top five imports traditionally account for 40% of total agricultural imports. Typically, the top five agricultural imports are comprised of barley, sheep/goats, rice, chicken and cigarettes. Barley alone represents 10% of total agricultural imports.

Organic farming is a major solution to help the nation meet some, if not all, of these daunting demands. "The farms compared had a fresh market tomato production. Tomato yields were shown to be quite similar in organic and conventional farms. (Drinkwater, 1995). The process is a viable and sustainable way of farming that will contribute to the preservation of seeds, reduce chemical needs and better utilize water supplies while stopping scientific manipulation and monopolies. Organic farming is already being practiced in most, if not all, of the countries of the world. The total globally cultivated organic land is approximately 26 million hectares and the existing world organic market has grown to over $28 billion.

The European Union and the United States are currently the leading markets, but many countries like China, India and Brazil have begun to show more interest in this growing international trend. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms and that in developing countries that food production could double or triple. (Wan Ho, et al., 2008) "Organic farming promotes crop rotation which encourages a more diverse set of crops, fodder and under-utilized plants which then improve the overall farm production and fertility. Organic farming may assist in the on-farm conservation of plant genetic resources. The organic methodology allows for the integration of livestock which then allows the system to add additional income and extra food yield through organic meats, eggs, dairy products, and draught animal.....

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