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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Report: Qatar lessening dependence on meat, fruit and dairy imports

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Though Qatar remains heavily reliant on imports to feed its growing population, the country has significantly increased the yield of locally grown produce and livestock in the past six years, according to new government figures.

Local farmers are producing more dates, cucumbers and green peppers in part due to an expansion in cultivated land since 2009.

But the largest increase by far has been in fodder for livestock, which has coincided with a dramatic jump in red meat and dairy product production, according to the latest agricultural report from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS).

While Qatar’s dependence on imports is unlikely to change in the short term, government officials are still hoping that more of the nation’s food can come from inside the country.

In the report, MDPS officials stressed the strategic nature of farming here:

“The agricultural sector in Qatar is still at its first stages of development. This is due to scarcity of irrigation water, soil deficiency and adverse climatic conditions … The government is trying hard to develop this sector by offering technical assistance and materials subsidies to agricultural producers.”

What’s grown in Qatar?

In 2013, Qatar produced 741,566 tons of cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, fish and dairy products, or the equivalent weight of more than half a million cows.

More than two-thirds of that was green fodder, which is primarily used to feed livestock. Production has increased by 73 percent between 2009 and 2013, from 331,101 tons to 574,207 tons.

The second-largest yield was milk and dairy products, the production of which increased by 65 percent from 35,609 tons in 2010 to 58,743 in 2013.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile, date palm production was Qatar’s third-most common crop, with local farmers harvesting 31,182 tons in 2013, up 50 percent from 20,815 tons in 2009.

While food production and land under cultivation has increased in recent years, the amount of vegetables grown declined to 43,447 tons in 2013, down 3 percent from 44,746 tons in 2009.

The other food category to show a significant decline was fish. Qatar’s fish stocks have dwindled in recent years, leading to various fish farms and aquaculture research projects being proposed.

Some 12,005 tons of fish were harvested in 2013. While that’s up by slightly more than 700 tons over the previous year, it’s still down 15 percent over the 14,066 tons caught in 2009.

Self-sufficiency

Qatar is working to boost its food security through a combination of increasing domestic production as well as making investments and buying up farmland abroad.

Some critics say that increasing food production in Qatar comes at a steep financial and environmental cost, as the need to desalinate water can make growing crops and raising livestock an expensive proposition.

Nevertheless, the recent QDPS report suggested that efforts to produce more food in Qatar is working and that local farmers are feeding a growing share of the country’s ever-increasing population.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, it stated that the country grew nearly 24 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Qatar in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2009.

Similarly, the country was 8.5 percent “self-sufficient” in meats in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2009.

On the other hand, Qatar’s reliance on imported fish, eggs and vegetables has increased during the same time period.

Earlier this year, financial advisory firm Alpen Capital reported that Qatar’s growing wealth meant shoppers were increasingly turning to pricier items in grocery stores such as meat, fruit and organic products.

It forecast that the amount of food consumed in Qatar would increase the fastest in the GCC.

Thoughts?

11 COMMENTS

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Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Shortage in fish can be easily addressed with fish farms. But for vegetables and fruits, I think the import will always be a better option from a cost and availability point of view.

anthony Tabing
anthony Tabing
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I have seen a lot of local produce and have personally sampled the rounded eggplant variegated purple and white color. These are smaller and more manageable to use for dishes. They are also fuller and firmer and last longer in the fridge without cold damage. I would say they are also fresher since it is locally produced. I have also had opportunity to sample locally produced organic eggs.
This is a good sign that given the proper encouragement and patronage from consumers the local grower give us what’s more practical fresh, better and truly home grown.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  anthony Tabing

Those things you tried are hugely subsidized both directly (direct government funding and subsidies to local farmers) and indirectly (use of subsidized water, electricity and other products). As a result this is not a viable and sustainable option for the country, especially with the fast-growing population. There are compromises to be made and for this particular issue, I think it makes sense to produce quality food outside the country rather than waste a lot of resources having it grown here

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I think it makes no sense at all building a city that sustains 3 million people for a population of 300 thousand citizens in the end. Why? The environmental damage is horrendous.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Is local veg significantly cheaper than stuff flown in from India, Jordan, Holland, etc.?
Maybe I’m shopping at the wrong stores.

Bahrain has two hydroponic companies producing really good quality veg at prices that seriously undercut imported stuff. Now if Bahrain can do that with their social unrest and without anywhere near the power and water subsidies in play in Qatar, the equivalent here should be even cheaper!

Would that be significantly less ‘green’ than air-freighting in peppers from Europe? I’m not so sure.

Farmed fish never tastes as good and also has quite an environmental impact. The solution is to not treat the sea as a bottomless pit of fish and limit how many fish you take out to sustainable levels.
However, with the looming food situation that may be impractical so we may have to go big on fish farms.

Pete
Pete
6 years ago

I have bought local cucumbers a few times. They seem to off within a few days.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Pete

All veggies go off in a few days

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Saudi cucumbers last a week

AKA
AKA
6 years ago

It’s good that they are trying to grow their own fruit and veggies but as they say it may be very hard to keep up with supply and demand. Maine fruit from here and other countries have a sewage taste to them which makes you wonder what water they are really using. Especially watermelons. As for local beef, I find that most of the time it has a funny taste. Too beefy or if chicken gainy. Hard to describe the taste of the beef. It definitely takes getting used to if your not raised your entire life on that particular taste. Fish farms are all good to tackle a problem but then you really have to stay on top of good maintanace or it just won’t work. They might need to bring up changing laws about fishing in order to have a bigger supply of fresh fish.

taurz
taurz
6 years ago
Reply to  AKA

Qatar has very strict policies against the use of TSE (Treated Sewage Effluent) water for growing agricultural products. The permissible levels of heavy metals in these waters are lower then that of Europe and UK standards. Still, TSE water is not allowed to be used in cultivation of products for human consumption.

At present, TSE water is used for the production of only animal fodder in Qatar.

BAIJU K C
BAIJU K C
6 years ago

It is good to notice that Qatar is showing substantial improvement in attaining self sufficiency in food production. Shelf life of produce, quality of produce, etc., mentioned below can be considered only as teething troubles. There are good number of varieties of different crops are available world wide. The team need to do field trials of various varieties to identify the best suited variety for Qatar.
Modern techniques like Poly House Farming can speed up the process. Qatar has the potential for producing atleast 80% of its vegetable consumption in Qatar itself.

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