CIMMYT welcomed H.E. Hussein M. Alassiri, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Mexico, to the El Batán headquarters on 20 October 2011. During his visit, the Ambassador was greeted by Director General Thomas Lumpkin, who highlighted the global challenges facing food security as well as describing CIMMYT’s programs which have been particularly successful in arid to semi-arid regions; Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA), Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), and Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). In addition to describing the history and mission of CIMMYT, Lumpkin also presented the Borlaug Institute for South Asia as CIMMYT’s newest initiative to tackle growing food insecurity.
The visit proceeded with a tour of the seed bank and a presentation by Iván Ortiz-Monasterio on developments in nitrogen use efficiency technologies, followed by Roberto Javier Peña who provided the Ambassador with a background of CIMMYT’s work on wheat quality. Hans-Joachim Braun was also present to give an overview of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 19th in the world’s wheat importers, currently importing nearly 2 million metric tons of wheat, primarily from Germany, Canada, and the USA. Average estimated annual consumption of wheat by Saudi inhabitants is currently 110 kg per person. Although self-sufficient in wheat throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia announced in 2008 that domestic wheat production will cease in 2016, in order to conserve the country’s dwindling water resources. Over the next five years, wheat production will reduce at a rate of 12.5% annually.
The Ambassador’s visit to CIMMYT focused on areas of mutual interest including advances in research and development of wheat productivity, water use efficiency, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Initiative which supports investment in low-income countries with a high potential to increase agricultural productivity. CIMMYT will be working with the Ambassador to send samples of seed collected in the Arabian Peninsula to Saudi researchers for further testing.