RIYDAH, SAUDI ARABIA — Saudi Arabia’s grain imports vary as the country’s trade policies alter and shift, according to an April 16 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Saudi Arabia’s corn imports for market year 2019-20 are forecast to drop 18% to 3.3 million tonnes due to the end of import subsidies on most animal feeds. Its corn production is revised down to 15,000 tonnes with the government discouraging “domestic production of water-intensive crops, including feed corn,” the USDA said.

The country’s rice imports are expected to decline 13% compared to the previous year as Indian exporters struggle to meet recently implemented import requirements, the USDA said. Saudi Arabia does not produce rice, it relies on imports.

Imports of wheat and barley, meanwhile, are expected to increase. Saudi Arabia signed purchase contracts for 3.5 million tonnes of wheat for this marketing year, an 18% increase over the previous year, the USDA said. Since the 2015-16 marketing year, the country has implemented a domestic ban of wheat production due to concern of groundwater depletion. Saudi Arabia eased the ban in late 2018 allowing for 202,000 tonnes to be produced in marketing year 2019-20.

The barley purchases include 6.7 million tonnes of the commodity and are expected to be delivered by June. Domestically, barley is only being produced for human consumption, no longer for animal feed, in order to conserve water resources. The USDA expects approximately 10,000 tonnes of barley to be produced in Saudi Arabia for marketing year 2019-20.