While the blockade on Qatar is heavily criticized globally, there is a shining light in all this mess, the crisis has come as a blessing to the farmers in Qatar. They have increased their production to meet the demand, which eventually means more money and more profit.
“We are witnessing a major boost in the agricultural sector and all efforts are being made to increase the production to achieve food security,” Fathalla Mohmoud, General Manager of Jerry Smeih Farms, one of the oldest farms in Qatar, said.
He said that government is encouraging by providing several incentives to support people who want to join the agri sector.
“For example, up to 60 percent of wheat bran for sheep feed is subsidised by the government and this is just one of the many incentives of the government,” he said.
“More people are now coming into the industry and more farms are springing up in the country which is a very good development. The government continues to give massive support to the sector and the dream of a 100 percent food production will be realised sooner than expected,” he said.
Speaking about the farm, Mohmoud said,”Jerry Smeih is the only duck farm in the entire GCC with a production capacity of an excess of 6,000 ducks per month. We not only supply to the local market but also export to other countries in the region.”
“We have adopted the latest technology in packaging system, the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), which has increased the shelf-life of fresh ducks to 18 days from the usual seven days for local production and 10 days for exported products from the usual three days.”
Jerry Smeih was awarded as the Premium Qatari Vegetables Seal by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment for its high-quality locally-produced vegetables, these vegetables are grown using the modern technology. He said the farm is also into chicken, egg, feeds, fish, honey and vegetable production.
“For the vegetable farm, we have 16 green houses measuring 5,000sqm each and we are adding four more green houses of the same size by the end of October. Our farm aims to increase tomato production to 200 tonnes per annum and cucumber to 75 tonnes every three months,” he said.
Mahmoud said that sophisticated hydroponics system has allowed to preserve nearly 70 percent of water and also helped in increasing farm yield.
Hydroponics, by definition, is a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient rich solution. This method does not use soil, instead the root system depends on an inert medium like pertile, rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss or ermiculite.
The basic idea of hydroponics is to allow the plant roots to come in direct contact with the nutrient solution, while also having access to oxygen, which is essential for proper growth.
“Since the system is a closed one, it not only saves water but also reduces the use of pesticides, which increases plant nutrients, as well as helps in cutting the cost of labour. For example if 1,000 sqm requires 100 litres of water, in hydroponics system you only need 20 litres since the water is recycled,” he added.
He informed that all the green houses are operated under the latest cooling system technology which makes sure that “we have production almost year round”.
Talking about duck production, he said the demand for ducks has rised as people now consider them as a better alternative to chicken.
“For us, we decided to go for ducks as they are highly resistant to the common avian diseases, have less mortality rate and usually live longer than chickens. In case of egg production, ducks lay eggs for a longer period,” he said.
He added that duck products such as eggs and meat have great demand in the local and international markets and the yield on them is very high.