Published online: Apr 14, 2009
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Potato production has risen from only 20 tons in 1976 to more than 60,000 tons and in the process the country is becoming an important regional exporter.

Jeddah-based Al-Bishi Establishment owner Gobar Naser Al-Bishi tells a news conference with Stet Holland BV export manager Henk Holtslag that Saudi Arabia is not only producing the best potato varieties, but is increasing its exports other parts of the Gulf.

"We are growing 25,000 tons of Class A variety of potatoes on 1,300 hectares (3.212 acres) of our farmland at Wadi Dawasi, 650 km (400 miles) southeast of Riyadh, which meets part of the requirement of domestic market and also contributes to the Kingdom's exports to elsewhere in the Gulf, Lebanon and other countries in the region," Al-Bishi is quoted as saying by the Arab News daily newspaper

"We have been experimenting with new varieties with their seeds being imported from Holland and have been successful in producing them on our farm. Jabbar is the latest variety we are introducing now after successfully experimenting with Bellini and other varieties.

"Growing best quality potatoes is a thrilling experience but costly and yet we are pursuing this as our contribution to the Kingdom's march in farm production."

Holtslag says his company has an ongoing collaboration with Al-Bishi under which top varieties of seed potatoes are sent to Saudi Arabia for cultivation.

"Our company grows seed potatoes on its 1,100 hectare (2,718 acres) of land in Holland and as much as 40,000 tons are exported the world over including the Kingdom," he says.

Potato cultivation was non-existent in Saudi Arabia prior to the mid-1970s. Then the Ministry of Agriculture and Water negotiated an agreement in 1978 with the Netherlands establishing the Saudi Potato Development Program, which initiated experimental trials in the Qassim and Khang areas of Saudi Arabia.

Since then production has expanded rapidly, due in part to state price supports and subsidization of seed and other inputs.