In an apparent effort to save their own water, Saudi Arabia is buying farmland in the Southwest to grow alfalfa and ship it back to their country’s dairies. According to the CNBC report, the Saudis recently purchased 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, Calif., for nearly $32 million. Blythe is in an agricultural area that borders the Colorado River.
The Blythe-area purchase is not the first. A couple of years ago, 10,000 acres of farmland in Vicksburg, Ariz., were purchased by Almarai, a large Saudi food company. Again, alfalfa was the end game.
The Saudi purchases are in areas where water restrictions are comparatively low. In Vicksburg, there are virtually no regulations on groundwater use, according to the CNBC report. Likewise, in Blythe, the Colorado River provides ample “first rights” water resources.
As one might imagine, this trend is rubbing some people in the area the wrong way. Drought and water issues have plagued the region for several years. Some officials feel this business model is analogous to exporting an already limited supply of water. A public meeting was held last week to hear the concerns of residents.
Saudi-purchased land or not, a lot of alfalfa production in the region is grown for export to other countries. Apparently, the Saudis feel the safe play is to control the entire production system, ensuring a consistent supply of feed to their dairies.