In an effort to provide feed to more than 170,000 cows, Saudi Arabiaâ€™s largest dairy, Almarai Company, paid $31.8 million to acquire the 1,790-acre Ulmer Ranch near Blythe, California. The purchase follows the acquisition two years ago of 10,000 acres in Arizona for $47.5 million. The Saudi government has banned water-thirsty crops, namely alfalfa, which is imperative to the Saudi dairy industry. The water rights on both properties are key. Blythe is located in the Palo Verde Valley and enjoys valuable Colorado River rights; the Arizona farmland holdings are in an area with no groundwater regulations. In addition to growing its own alfalfa, Almarai is also buying hay from neighboring farmers for export to the kingdom. The Saudis are not the only foreign investors eyeing American ag land. China buys as much as 20 percent of its total hay imports from the United States, and Japan and South Korea are also active buyers.
Read more about this 2015 Land Report Agriculture Deal of the Year in the Spring issue of The Land Report.