SAUDI ARABIA The oil boom in the Gulf has taken a toll of the wheat farms of Saudi Arabia. Large tracts of rich, arable land are slowly drying up in the Saudi Arabian desert as the once lucrative wheat farming has lost its appeal. The oil boom of'70s- '80s saw the country pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into turning the desert sands to arable land and boosting the output of oases. Half the cost of setting up farms was financed by the government and the rest of the sum was given to the farmers in interest-free loans. It also paid prices far higher than world rates to buy wheat from the farmers. But over the years, profits have dwindled and now only about 60 per cent of the estimated 1.6 million ha of arable land is used for farming. Reduction of generous water and electricity subsidies has also dampened the farmers' interest.

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