As per information available, it has been indicated that around 700,000 tons of rice worth over SR2 billion is wasted per year in Saudi Arabia and putting a control on this will help the economy in a big way according to the experts. This huge wasted quantity of rice is because of banquets, celebrations and social occasions involving providing food for guests, of which 40 percent ends up in the garbage, as reported by the local media. According to the sources, it has been reported that outside East Asian countries, Saudi Arabia is the largest rice consumer in the world with an annual consumption of 1.4 million tons, worth about SR5 billion. While, India tops the countries in the world in exporting rice to the Kingdom, with imports accounting for about 68 percent of the total imports by Kingdom. During the current year, rice prices recorded an increase by 5 percent, equivalent to 31 halala per kilo, although prices of the commodity in India decreased last year.
Further, in this regard Mr Nasser Al-Tuwaim, former chairman of the Saudi Consumer Protection Association (CPA) narrated that several parties and factors are responsible for the increase in the prices of rice. In addition, unscrupulous merchants, extravagant consumers, monopolization practices and alluding to a limited number of importers are the main reasons for such price hikes during past years. However, the Economist Mr Osama Filali said that the excessive wastage of food items have negative impacts on citizens and the national economy. Further, in view of the huge wastage of rice, it has been advised that the wastage and overspending we witness during banquets and celebrations need a firm and serious stand from authorities to oblige kitchen owners not to respond to the demands of people who order unneeded and unjustified quantities of food.
It has been narrated by Mr Hasan Ahmad, head of the Bussma youth volunteer group, that the group has established a project to stop abundant food leftovers during social occasions. The project started with the idea to put a curb on food wastage and extravagance, and encourage people to rationalize in consumption, especially leftover food which is usually thrown into the garbage bins despite there being poor people who badly need it. Since that moment, the group adopted the project as one of its activities and put in place mechanisms on how to work out the tasks and achieve the objectives of the project. Furthermore, he explained that the youths to coordinate with halls and lounges where a wedding or a social occasion is held, and they collect food leftovers, wrap it in clean plastic containers and then distribute it among the needy, cleaners in particular.
As stated by the Economist Farouk Al-Khatib that it is the behavior of the consumers which represents the main reason for the high demand for rice, which is the main meal for Saudi families. It is a known economic fact that when demand is high, prices increase. The solution in this case is to rationalize consumption by raising awareness among people on the importance of saving and rationalizing in consumption, it was added. Meanwhile, in this aspect, Jeddah Municipality Spokesman Mohammad Al-Bugamy told that the general directorate for hygiene distributed about 900 containers for saving bakery products with nine contracts for cleaning companies in Jeddah, including 14 sub-municipalities. It was added that the daily volume of waste and garbage stands at 6,000 tons, of which wasted food accounts for 60 percent. To solve this problem, the residents in Jeddah were advised to cooperate with the municipality to reduce such food waste by redistributing it to the needy instead of throwing it in the garbage.