Saudi Arabians consume more bread per person than any other people in the world, the country's acting minister of agriculture said Sunday, local media reported. But critics argue that the actual eating of bread is only part of the picture, with levels of waste reaching extremes in a country where bread prices are among the lowest in the world.
The average Saudi consumes 235 grams of wheat, or slightly more than half a pound, per day in the form of pita bread, buns or other bread types, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found in March. Thanks to a wheat sector subsidized by the government in the oil-rich and wealthy Middle Eastern kingdom, 1 pound of white bread costs the equivalent of 55 U.S. cents, according to the website Numbeo. That's cheaper than a pound of apples, oranges, tomatoes or even rice.
Such a steal provides little incentive for residents not to waste food, and critics have called in recent years for clearer assessments about just how much of this bread ends up molding or rotting in the trash. An estimate published in 2014 suggested that 4,500 tons of food are wasted daily in the kingdom, or 30 percent of food prepared daily. It was not clear how much of that consisted of bread, which is considered a staple element during meals. Saudis eat both Arabic bread, such as pita, as well as Western forms of the baked good.
Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on imports to keep up a steady supply of wheat for its citizens. At the end of 2014, Saudi Arabia imported 3 million tons of wheat, up from 300,000 tons imported in 2008, al Arabiya news reported in December. The desert country once produced more than 2 million tons of its own wheat, but abandoned that practice in an effort to conserve water.