CORN, SWEET CORN

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | AGRICULTURE & FOOD | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ziyad Al-Sheikh, President of Middle East Food Solutions Company (MEFSCO), on the Agriculture and Food sector.

Ziyad Al-Sheikh
BIOGRAPHY
Ziyad Al-Sheikh joined ARASCO in 2002, working for its corn milling division. When MEFSCO was established in 2013 as a joint venture between ARASCO and Cargill, he was appointed as CEO. He obtained his degrees at KFUPM and Harvard Business School.

What have been the advantages of continuing as an international joint venture?

IMEFSCO differs from other corn milling manufacturers through its unique foreign investment, bringing international knowledge and finished products application development and solutions to the region, along with a strong local experience and supply chain infrastructure with its logistical services and bulk solutions. Corn has over 90 product applications and in 2014, we started building our new facility in the same location near Alkharj city (150km from capital Riyadh), investing over SAR600 million to triple corn grind capacity, produce more glucose syrups, and corn sweetener fructose 42, the component that replaces sugar in many food applications.

Can you elaborate on your new facility in Al Kharj?

After deciding on the investment, both partners and their stakeholders were committed to this major expansion to triple the annual capacity from 120,000 metric tons of corn grind to 350,000 metric tons. As of January 2018, we have successfully started operations, and we aim to serve our existing customers in the region and expand our exports further.

What markets and directions does MEFSCO want to focus on?

Prior to our expansion, 10% of our sales were exports, mainly to other GCC and Arab countries such as Iraq and Jordan. Our aim now is to grow to 40% exports with a focus on Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, and certain African countries. Being in Saudi Arabia offers us a strong position in terms of using our robust infrastructure. We are close to the ports of Jeddah and Dammam and the cargo flows that go through these port cities. This helps us have a better reach into the MENA region. In our regional markets, we primarily work with distributors or direct sales to manufacturers.