SALIC assumed responsibility for the Kingdom's food security, could you tell us more about that role?
SALIC was established with a two-fold mandate. First of all, we work on food security for Saudi Arabia, ensuring that we have strategic investments in agricultural production, livestock and the supply chain towards the Kingdom. Secondly, we strive for returns around 5-6% on these investments for our shareholder. Due to the climate conditions in Saudi Arabia, agriculture and food production can be largely inefficient in terms of energy and water usage, and therefore expensive. Today, the Kingdom imports 80% of its food, and are focused on acquiring assets in this food production value chain to provide food security. To have a have a better understanding of that import quantity, we profiled it and found that about 75% of all imports are made up of 12 commodities or food ingredients. For the coming five years, we have decided to focus on these 12 primary products: wheat, barley, corn, soybean, rice, sugar, edible oil, fodder, red meat, aquaculture, milk products, and poultry. All our investments abroad are within that strategy, and we are interested in acquiring stakes in companies or accessing the volume for the importation into Saudi Arabia. For these twelve earmarked categories, we aim to achieve more than 50% import coverage.
What role do you envision for SALIC in bringing investments and interested parties together, with regards to local investment in the sector?
Thus far, we have been focused on investments outside of the Kingdom. We have invested in farming operations in Ukraine, we have an investment in grain origination and export out of Canada, and one of our investments is South America's largest beef exporter. We recently acquired Baladije, which was our first venture into Australia where we know own an aggregation of over 200,000 hectares of farming in Western Australia's wheat belt that also carries a 40,000 head Merino sheep flock. SALIC has a broad international perspective in terms of aligning itself with companies that are already doing business today or helping them in terms of growing their business and access into Saudi Arabia. We work closely with Saudi companies and international companies that are already active in the Kingdom.
What opportunities do you see for Saudi Arabia to advance in this trajectory to increase agricultural production?
Water is a scarce resource in Saudi Arabia, and one thing that has evolved in the past few years is the production of alfalfa. The Kingdom changed the regulations two years ago to reduce the production of alfalfa inside the Kingdom because of an irrigation issue. Now, we expect large amounts of alfalfa to be imported into the Kingdom after previously being grown and distributed locally. We are currently aligned with international companies producing and exporting alfalfa into the Kingdom, and we will have a large presence in that space. If there are other initiatives outside our current scope, we will find a way to assist and encourage that.
What is needed to build up the infrastructure around agriculture and livestock activities?
The supply chain is this industry is long. We are looking at origination points elsewhere; for example, in the grain sector, we have an originating point in Canada and a large port under construction. The port of Vancouver on the west coast of Canada will be Canada's most advanced and efficient. We have projects inside the Kingdom for import that we are exploring currently. We are looking at every step of the chain, whether it is investments or aligning with companies that are already strong in the space.
How do you envision Saudi Arabia continuing to transform the agricultural industry with technology?
Technology is a large space, with many different applications, and there are many exciting and challenging opportunities ongoing. We focus on investing in agricultural technology, agro-tech, and food technology. We believe Saudi Arabia can take the lead in the advancement of technology in this space, and SALIC is very much focused on companies that are focused on producing higher yields for agricultural production or improve operations in other ways. We work closely with universities and other advisory institutes to identify the technologies as well as the various applications, while we are also in talks with various agro-tech companies.
What is your message to investors outside the Kingdom that are looking to collaborate with SALIC?
SALIC is a friendly activist in terms of our approach. We do not have a specific formula; we are focused on what makes the most sense and what is logical. We align ourselves with companies looking for growth, and we can come in with growth capital. Other companies are looking for buyers, and we might look into acquiring the company in 100%. At SALIC, we want to do what makes the most sense, and if we can step in and help a company grow and increase its position in the Gulf, we are interested.
What is on the table for the coming one to two years?
SALIC is changing rapidly, and we have several projects on the table right now in new geographies as well. As we grow and continue to invest around the world, SALIC has become a more recognizable name with a bigger presence in the food security space. It is seen as a strategic investor with a disciplined approach and focus on providing food security to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf as well as providing returns to its shareholders. SALIC aims to be a world-class food security agribusiness investment company.