Qatar residents may have a new poultry option – Russian chicken – to choose from at the supermarket this year, after Qatari and Russian authorities signed an agreement that would help address the Gulf state’s ongoing shortage of the birds.
Speaking to Doha News, a Russian embassy official confirmed that representatives from Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian federal agency that oversees the import and export of agricultural products, met with Hassad Food officials here earlier this month and signed a protocol to enable the import of halal poultry, meat and other Russian goods to Qatar.
The amount of poultry that will be shipped here has not been disclosed. But shipments will likely include both fresh and frozen chicken, and will hopefully begin coming into Qatar this year, said Alexey Kocheshkov, Second Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Qatar.
“Russia has huge capacity of halal poultry due to the fact that some Russian republics are Muslim. In fact, we produce more halal chicken than non-halal chicken.
For us, there is a strong industry in halal products and Russia is very interested in cooperating with some Gulf states such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in this regard.”
The agreement was signed amid the first meeting of the joint Qatari-Russian committee for trade, economical and technical cooperation.
Following the two-day meeting, Rosselkhoznadzor issued a statement saying that Qatar “expressed interest in investment potential of the Russian agricultural sector, especially in poultry production, and in import of Russian agricultural products.”
This followed efforts by the Russian body at the end of the last year to get several animal products, including beef, poultry meat, mutton, eggs and egg products approved by the Qatari authorities.
“They are expected to be initialed in the nearest time,” Rosselkhoznadzor added.
“Like all Arab countries, Qatar is interested in grain import from Russia. However, now we’re discussing their ability to purchase poultry production, cattle and small cattle. They are certainly interested in production that has passed halal control and meet the demands allowing Muslims to eat it,” assistant to the head of the Rosselkhoznadzor Aleksey Alexeyenko is quoted by Russian news agency Interfax as saying to the Izvestia daily newspaper.
The UAE is also expected to receive Russian halal poultry, as the head of Russia’s Economic Department of the Council of Muftis (Muslim religious scholars) is also negotiating with Emirati authorities to agree on exports of halal chicken. The first deliveries there are expected by this summer, according to industry website Customs Today.
The publication added that market experts at Russia’s Agrorucom agency believe the country could potentially supply 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of halal poultry meat to the Middle East in 2015, if supplies were launched by mid-2015, expanding to at least double this figure in 2016.
Not enough chicken
News of this agreement comes as Qatar faces a poultry shortage, particularly of fresh chicken.
In January this year, supermarkets across Doha including Lulu, Carrefour and Family Food Center said they hadn’t received any shipments of fresh poultry for days, and sold out very quickly of the small supplied they did get.
Two years ago, Qatar faced a similar situation when Saudi Arabia imposed a temporary ban on the export of all poultry products. That move was an effort to supply its own domestic markets and stabilize prices.
To make up for the shortfall at the time, Qatar began importing chicken from Bulgaria.
In a bid to address the shortage and bolster Qatar’s precarious food security, plans were initially floated here to establish a chicken and egg farm complex, which would be funded through an initial public offering in addition to private investors.
The 5.7 sq km complex would have had the capacity to produce up to 40,000 tons of chicken and 7.5 tons of eggs each year.
However, last month the company that would have helped finance the project said it was ordered by regulators to put the flotation plans on hold.