Addressing the 30th annual general assembly of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Minister of Agriculture and Water Dr. Abdullah Bin Muammar urged developed countries to assist those less fortunate, stressing the importance of smooth transfer of modern technology in agricultural production. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has adopted a number of programs and is training people to work in agriculture, giving great attention to research, transfer of technology, improvement of productive and marketing capacity and diversification of the productive base, taking into account the importance of preservation of the environment.
Dr. Muammar went on to say that the Saudi agricultural sector grew at an average annual rate of 8 percent from 1970 through 1998. Crop production in 1998 amounted to 2.2 million tons, with vegetables 2.7 million tons and fruits 1.2 million tons. There was also substantial amounts of meat, milk, and eggs, and Saudi Arabia is now completely self-sufficient in a number of foodstuffs. Agriculture's contribution to the Gross National Product (GNP) in the non-oil sector is now over 10 percent. In addition, referring to the fact that the Kingdom ranks second globally in terms of the amount of material aid it gives to developing countries, Dr. Muammar noted that from 1973 to 1998 Saudi Arabia provided around U.S. $73 billion in grants and soft loans.