Saudi investors facing obstacles in Argentina

Dr. Fahad Balghunaim, Saudi Minister of Agriculture, said the exponentially high price of fodder is chiefly responsible for the rise in prices of imported and locally produced chickens.

He said the feed price increase is estimated at 40 percent, and noted that Saudi poultry producers have flooded the Ministry with appeals to subsidize the fodder.

"We are considering these applications," he said.

Dr. Balghunaim commented on the matter during the visit Monday by Argentina's Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez and his accompanying delegation to King Abdul Aziz Center for Genuine Arab Horses in Riyadh.

He said one of the major efforts in the field of economic exchange is to translate the initiative of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, of investing in agriculture in foreign countries into practical measures.

The King is determined to secure a stable, reasonably priced food supply for the Kingdom and the Ministry of Health has tasked the private sector with implementing this initiative, Dr. Balghunaim said.

The private sector has responded positively by entering into partnerships with multinational companies investing in agriculture and investing in countries that are rich in agricultural resources, he said.

He said a Saudi business delegation visited Argentina to explore areas of economic exchange and discovered three obstacles to investment there.

There are concerns about tax exemptions, an investment protection pact and a tax on foreign investors, but an official said efforts are underway to address them.

Argentina's agricultural minister said "we are making intensive contacts with the Foreign Ministry in Argentina to resolve these three issues."

There are no restrictions for Saudi investors to possess lands in his country, he said.

There are some restrictions on the purchase and lease of some projects, but they have not been implemented, he added.

In a related matter, Saad Al-Meqbl, director general of Agricultural Affairs in the Eastern Province, has announced that 12 poultry projects have been shut down because their owners failed to follow regulations.

The projects, which he described as outdated, were in the urban zone.

He said his administration gave the owners a grace period so they could rectify the shortcomings, but they took no substantive action.

Al-Meqbl said a committee of officials from the ministries of Agriculture and Municipal and Rural Affairs have been effective in conducting surprise inspection tours of unlicensed shops selling live chicken.

The inspectors have confiscated more than 15,000 live chicken and the instruments used to slaughter them, he said.

Al-Meqbl further said owners of the poultry farms who violated the regulations were fined more than SR393,000 and that one of them was fined SR184,000 for unlicensed slaughtering of chicken.

Fines will be increased to SR1 million to further deter people, he added.

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