Blackberries and raspberries are in high demand in the Saudi Arabian market, prompting certain growers to take up the challenge of producing berries locally. Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Anjum, production manager at AlFahhad Farms, is overseeing one of the first berry production ventures in the country.
Anjum said, "The Saudi Arabian market imports blackberries and raspberries from the USA and Europe to meet demand. Today, very few farms in Saudi Arabia have started growing these two berries, but their production is limited. This is due to the non-availability of selective varieties, the very hot environmental conditions, and soil type. At AlFahhad Farms, a project of Ahmed Bin Sulaiman Alfahhad Endowments headed by Eng. Saleh Altuwayjiri, we have taken up this challenge and addressed these issues."
The venture has all the makings of commercial success. According to Anjum. He explains, "Imported berries are very expensive, with a 100g pack costing SAR 20, whereas local products cost only SAR 13 per pack of the same size" (1 SAR = 0.24 EUR). But how do you produce berries in Saudi Arabia in very adverse climatic conditions?
Anjum answers, "Raspberry and blackberry production is a recent industry enabled by agricultural technology. The berries prefer fertile soil and cool climatic conditions for their growth. Saudi Arabia is one of the hottest regions in the world. In the past, it was not possible to imagine growing berries in this harsh environment and sandy soil. Today, however, it is possible to grow them under controlled environmental conditions using a drip irrigation system. AlFahhad Farms, located in the Al Qassim region of Saudi Arabia, have successfully grown blackberries and raspberries under semi-controlled environmental conditions."
Anjum continues: "We use the soil as a growing medium, which reduces production costs. In terms of varieties, we first tested blackberry and raspberry varieties imported from the Netherlands to see how they reacted to the environment and production. In the end, the raspberry variety 'Autumn Bliss' and the blackberry varieties 'Thornless Evergreen' and 'Black Satin' showed excellent growth and high production."
The next milestone for AlFahhad Farms is to produce enough volumes for the local market. Anjum says: "Overall, domestic production, including ours, is not yet sufficient for demand. At AlFahhad Farms, our local berry production project currently covers 5,000 square meters of greenhouses. We are targeting the local market in the AlQassim region and plan to increase our production in the near future."
For more information:
Muhammad Zohaib Anjum
Tel.: +966 54 4518650