Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz yesterday received Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization Dr. Jacques Diouf, who awarded him the FAO’s highest award, the Golden Agricola for 1997, in recognition of the role played by the Kingdom in agricultural development and food security and the pioneering role played by King Fahd himself especially in contributing to the eradication of hunger and poverty in developing countries.
Director Diouf, expressing his pleasure in handing over the medal, remarked on how Saudi Arabia, having successfully turned its deserts into green meadows, is now exporting agricultural products to other countries, and praised the Kingdom for its support, both direct and indirect, of developing countries.
Minister of Agriculture and Water Dr. Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz Ibn Muammar said that the decision to award the medal to King Fahd reflects the significant role he has played in the development of the agricultural sector, noting that the area of cultivated land in the Kingdom has jumped from only 600 hectares in 1980 to 1.6 million hectares in 1995. Remarking on the self-sufficiency achieved by the Kingdom in a number of areas of food production, he gave some figures for 1995: wheat, 4.2 million tons; vegetables, 2.5 million tons; fruits, 1 million tons; poultry, 267 million birds; dairy products, 600,000 tons; red meat, 150,000 tons; and fish, 54,000 tons. Dr. Muammar attributed this success to the Grace of Almighty God, and to the generous support extended to the agricultural sector by the government, which has distributed fallow land free of charge to farmers, and offered interest-free loans that up to the end of 1995 exceeded SR 28 billion (U.S. $ $7.5 billion). Moreover, the Kingdom has extended to developing countries, in kind as well as in cash, assistance to the value of SR 598 million (U.S. $ 159.5 million) through international food programs. This is in addition to the SR 367 million (U.S. $ 42.5 million) it has contributed to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and about SR 70.6 billion (U.S. $ 18.8 billion) in soft loans to 72 developing countries. The Kingdom has also constantly extended relief assistance to victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes as well as to displaced persons and refugees.