Saudis throw away 440 tons of rice annually

Surplus quantities of food in the kingdom reached 231,764 meals in 2013

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Economists have estimated that Saudis throw away between 35 and 40 percent of cooked rice a year, a waste worth nearly SR1.6 billion.

The Kingdom imports about 1.1 million tons of rice annually at an estimated cost of SR4 billion, of which nearly 440 tons are wasted every year, al-Madinah newspaper said.

Chairman of the Agricultural and Food Security Committee in Riyadh Muhammad al-Hammadi said rice is one of the key commodities in food security and the Kingdom implements a food security strategy represented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ initiative in agricultural investment abroad. He attributed the large amount of food waste to a culture that fails to emphasize the importance of conserving food.

“There is wastage of significant quantities of rice by Saudi society estimated to be between 35 and 40 percent and this is mainly due to people’s failure to understand the importance of conserving food. The solution begins with the family as there should be awareness about wasting food, especially rice. The committee intends to hold a workshop on the topic and it will also deal with the mechanisms for reducing food wastage in society,” he said.

According to the director of public relations at the It’aam Food Charitable Society, Khaled Abdulwahed Al-Khan, surplus quantities of food in 2013 reached 231,764 meals.

The society encourages food conservation through campaigns launched in newspapers, on television and radio, at local festivals and on social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“It’aam has signed a number of memorandums of understanding with numerous official bodies, such as the Saudi Press Agency and Saudi Aramco. It’aam is making preparations to publish the first issue of its seasonal magazine ‘Meerah’, which will have the same contents and goals It’aam intends to convey to the reader. The society is also getting ready to release animated short films so it can reach out to children. It also strives to convey this vision to teachers and children,” he said.

Al-Khan cited opinion polls held by It’aam that show an increase in awareness on the importance of conserving food, something he said shows how effective awareness campaigns can be on impacting society and the national economy.

The chief executive officer of al-Othaim Markets Company, Yusuf Muhammad al-Qaffari, said the annual consumption of rice in the Kingdom is about 1.3 million metric tons. Fifty percent of Basmati rice consumption is in retail trade while the other 50 percent is consumed at restaurants.

As for the total consumption of Basmati rice, 80 percent is Mazzah and 20 percent is white rice. The southern and western parts of the Kingdom consume more Mazzah rice while the Eastern Province consumes more white rice.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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