With reporting from Riham Sheble
Plans for a massive poultry farm in Qatar, aimed at producing more than a third of all chicken consumed in the country, are back on the table, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has said.
The government department announced this week that it has awarded a license to Dar Al Rayyan Investment Co. for a QR1.3 billion (US$356.93 million) complex, whose location has not been disclosed yet. When completed, it will produce 40,000 tons of fresh and frozen chickens annually.
The facility will also generate 7,500 tons of eggs each year. While this week’s announcement said Dar Al Rayyan – which beat out nine other shortlisted bidders – would be expected to follow a “strict timeline,” there was no mention of when the complex would become operational.
One of the conditions of the license is to raise chickens without the use of antibiotics.
The poultry complex initiative is aimed at bolstering Qatar’s food security and is part of a broader push in recent years to increase domestic food production. The country has also been making investments and buying up farmland abroad.
Shortages of fresh chicken have occasionally popped up in Qatar, including at the beginning of this year.
Currently, 7.7 percent of Qatar’s fresh and frozen chicken comes from within the country, while the rest is imported from other nations, according to the MEC. It added that the new Dar Al Rayyan complex would raise domestic production to 46 percent.
Similarly, the new facility is expected to boost egg production within Qatar to 42 percent of local demand, up from 15.7 percent currently.
More to eat
The most recent government statistics show that farmers in Qatar are producing more food – particularly dates, cucumbers, green peppers, dairy products and red meat – and lessening the country’s reliance on imports.
However, growing crops and raising livestock can come at a steep financial and environmental cost in a dry country such as Qatar, as the need to desalinate water can make farming an expensive proposition.
While Qatar state investment firm Hassad Food has experimented with hydroponics vegetable projects that reduce the need for freshwater and soil, the need to desalinate water can still make farming in this country an expensive proposition.
This may be one reason why the government is involved in the poultry project, rather than leaving it purely to the private sector.
When ministry officials first floated their plans, they said the government would lease land to build the farms, which investors would then be encouraged to buy a stake in.
This week’s announcement did not mention what incentives, if any, would be offered to Dar Al Rayyan.
With the poultry complex deal in place, the MEC and Ministry of Environment are now turning their attention to encouraging private companies to build a new large-scale dairy farm.
The ministries have released a questionnaire to gauge the interest of the private sector in participating in the project, with an invitation for formal bids expected at a later date.
The goal of the project is to produce some 20,000 tons of milk and dairy products annually within 36 months of license being awarded.
The ministries estimates that some 153.2 acres would have to be used for the dairy operation itself, plus another 1,235.5 acres of land – irrigated with treated sewage water – for growing green fodder to feed the cattle.
Government experts estimate that the project would consume 700,000 cubic meters annually. That’s the equivalent of roughly .14 percent of the water produced in Qatar last year, according to separate government statistics.