Qatar like its gulf neighbours has very little scope to have an agriculture industry which is why it depends on imports to meet their consumer needs. But the local farmers are employing innovative methods to cultivate high quality yields and now is the time for them to show that they are important.
Qatar has been put in a diplomatic blockade led by Saudi Arabia by UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for more than 55 days now and while it has been a challenge for Qatar to cope with the hindrances, it has seen positive outcomes. Qatar’s wants their local produce to be preferred by their people and thus farmers are happy that they can completely indulge themselves in their farming to meet the rising demands.
Industry sources have said local farms and food manufacturers are transforming the crisis into an opportunity to improve sales locally and even expand if things go well.
“They will be encouraged to produce more to keep up with the growing market demand. Those who are in the industry will definitely find a market, which could help their businesses grow and expand,” Qatari businessman Farhan al-Sayed said.
A staff member of a poultry farm in Qatar said that prior to the Gulf crisis, the company’s daily average for chicken was 33,000 heads, which are delivered to major hypermarkets and other stores in the country. The company also supplies the local market with 360,000 eggs per day.
“We are expecting demand to grow because there is now a vacuum in the market following the blockade on Qatar,” he noted.
According Abdallah Sulaiteen, chairman of Sulaiteen Agricultural Group in Qatar, using modern technology in seawater desalination to provide more water sources in the Qatari farms was one of the top options to improve local farms productivity. Other Qatari farms are working on the same line as well as other kinds of vegetables to provide sustainable and low-cost sources.
Sulaiteen pointed out the high quality of the Qatari leafy products as some German companies offered to buy mint from local farmers due to the good quality of the Qatari product.
“This is an indication that we are following international standards in our methods of cultivation,” said Sulaiteen.
To address the rising need for local products Hassad Food, a subsidiary of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, announced the launch of Iktefa’ (sufficiency), a new plan to subsidize Qatari farms to help them bring “high quality products to the local market.”
Under the initiative, Hassad will:
- Purchase the annual yieldof local farms and resell them to the Qatar market;
- Provide technical supervisionand logistical support to farms; and
- Develop feasibility studiesfor farms seeking financial support to build greenhouses.
Local farms are being invited to work with Hassad as it seeks to buy up to 5,000 tons of fresh produce a year initially.
In a statement, Hassad’s CEO Mohamed AlSadah said “We hope that through this important initiative, (we) will build bridges of cooperation with local farmers.”
Established in 2008, Hassad Food has long been working localize Qatar’s food supply. It has also played an important role food during this recent crisis.
In addition to investing in local agriculture, Hassad has food-related projects in Australia, Pakistan and Oman.
But in contrast to the other Gulf States, Qatar also aims to produce most of its food domestically, by spending massively to boost crop yields and convert semi-desert into agricultural land.
Qatar’s farming methods include open-field agriculture, greenhouse production, and hydroponics, a soil-less culture technology which uses less water and land and can yield up to 10 times the crop grown in an open field.
SAIC, which started vegetable production in 2001, is growing tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and other vegetables through a combination of greenhouses, hydroponic systems and regular farming. It supplies supermarkets and hotels.
“Certain commodities like fish, eggs and poultry can be produced locally with an increased level of self-sufficiency,” said food security advisor Shah.
“Aquaculture can be used for fish, controlled environment production for poultry and eggs, but when it comes to cereals, the scale of the water required — this has to be carefully thought through.”
Qatar has also been working to expand its dairy products. So far Qatar is awaiting the delivery of the second batch of cows from Germany after it had decided to expand its dairy products. Altogether, 4,000 cows were purchased from Germany.
The second edition of the ongoing Local Dates Festival comes as part of Qatar’s keen interest in supporting and encouraging national products.
The festival is also in line with the efforts of the State to achieve food security and its eagerness to develop the agricultural sector.
With government initiative like these local farmers feel happy that there is a future for their livelihood. Qataris and residents alike feel happy to encourage Qatar into a more self-sufficient country.