How Saudi Arabia made its debut in tomato exports to Europe

In February 2024, Saudi Arabia exported fresh produce to Europe for the first time, a feat featured on television news. Despite its challenging climate and heavy reliance on imports, Saudi Arabia managed to export tomatoes to Europe by utilizing high-tech greenhouses and vertical farming, led by Dava Agricultural Co.
Wissam Abdel Samad, Dava’s Chief Commercial Officer, recounts the journey: “The concept of our agricultural production project took shape in 2017, driven by Saudi Arabia’s quest for a year-round, secure food supply. Implementation commenced in 2019, leading to the birth of Dava. Encompassing over 107 hectares, our project comprises state-of-the-art greenhouses and vertical farming technologies. Our goal is to achieve a daily production capacity of 165 tonnes by 2024.”
Continuing, Wissam said, “With strong support, capabilities, and experience, our project has become a major player in agriculture and investments. Achieving our production target for year-round supply, we now aim to sell our produce effectively, especially during the winter when local prices are low due to Saudi Arabia’s self-sufficiency in open-field production. This led us to consider the possibility of exporting our products.”
Wissam highlighted that exploring new markets with better prices during the winter was the ideal solution for selling surplus production. The European market stood out as a clear choice. “European markets offer favorable prices during this season, along with more manageable logistics. The Netherlands, being Europe’s primary hub for fresh produce distribution, was a natural target. With the backing of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, as well as Saudi Export and Saudi Cargo, under the guidance of our CEO, Mr. Faisal Al Batal, and with the collaborative effort of our entire team, from workers to management, we took decisive action.”
The exporter announced the successful outcome of Wissam and his team’s efforts this month. “In collaboration with the Dutch company Lehmann & Troost, we exported our first experimental shipment weighing around 5 tonnes, flown out on 12/02/2024. The feedback was positive, with the product classified as premium and meeting key demand varieties in the European market. The second 10-tonne shipment is scheduled for 27 February 2024. Plans are in place to export 12 tonnes of fresh vegetables daily to Europe in 2025 for four months, totaling 1,500 tonnes for the year.”
Dava’s current produce range includes vine tomatoes, beef tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and mushrooms. Wissam explains their operations: “Our vegetables are harvested daily and delivered fresh using refrigerated trucks and innovative packaging. Despite the desert environment, our plants thrive year-round, thanks to advanced techniques like climate control, efficient irrigation, and automated harvesting. We work with top seed companies and maintain strict food safety standards through cleanliness, sterilization, environmental monitoring, and staff training. Our products are healthy, pesticide-free, and known for their exceptional taste, appearance, and aroma.”
Dava is expanding its crop portfolio to support its export strategy. Wissam explains, “We have several projects in progress, including nursery systems for leafy greens, a strawberry farm with semi-closed and CO2-cooled glass greenhouses, mushroom production rooms, and additional vegetable cultivation in advanced hydroponic glass greenhouses. We are also establishing a farm for blueberries, redberries, and blackberries.”
The exporter also mentioned plans to establish a sister company for Vegetable and Fruit Distribution. This company will feature a sorting, packaging, and distribution center, accessible to contracted farmers, which will significantly enhance Saudi Arabia’s export capabilities. Additionally, the company will import fruits and vegetables from global sources and distribute them within the Kingdom.




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