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Qatar set to overcome shortage of food supply

Photo Courtesy: CNN

“There are abundant products in line with a government plan that is activated under such circumstances”

Doha: Qatar, a country with a geographical area similar to U.S. state of Connecticut, depends mostly on imports from the Middles East countries to feed its 2.7 million people.

A day after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic and trade links with the country, Qatar’s government sought to dispel concerns of possible food shortages.

A video released on Tuesday, showed the fully stocked supermarket shelves. Meanwhile the Ministry of Economy and Commerce assured the authorities have taken steps to ensure a regular supply of food and other goods.

“There are abundant products in line with a government plan that is activated under such circumstances,” the video’s unidentified narrator said. “The import of all food and consumer goods from different sources and countries continues normally.”

“An abundant strategic reserve of food and consumer goods is available,” the ministry video’s narrator said. “Prices are stable and will not be affected, especially that the prices of most consumer and food products have been fixed and any changes will require the ministry’s approval.”

To be noted, Qatar’s ports and airports remains open to trade with countries not taking part in the Saudi-led boycott, the government said. ‘Some 38 percent of Qatar’s food comes across the border from Saudi Arabia, Mazen Al-Sudairi,’ Head of research at Al Rajhi Capital, a Riyadh-based financial services company, said on Tuesday.

 

Lines at Grocery stores:

Shoppers on Monday night waited in checkout lines at supermarkets in the capital Doha as people stocked up on rice, chicken and other staples after Saudi Arabia and allied Arab nations severed ties.

By Tuesday morning, stores were quieter, though shelves at one grocery outlet were empty of eggs from the U.A.E. and milk packaged by Saudi Arabia’s Almarai Co.

The U.A.E. stood as the second-biggest source in the list of countries who import goods to Qatar in the fourth quarter of 2016, while Saudi Arabia stood at eighth, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Together, the two countries accounted for 15 percent of Qatari imports in the quarter, the data show.

Meanwhile the World Bank also states the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia as Qatar’s two biggest food suppliers.
Both nations have stopped exporting white sugar to Qatar, ADM Investor Services International said in a report. “Qatar’s consumption is only around 100,000 tons a year, and they can source from elsewhere,” it said.

India and European countries will be quick to meet Qatar’s sugar needs, Yves El Mallat, chief executive officer of Bahrain’s Arabian Sugar Co., said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Qatar might suffer a bit, but I don’t think it will be for long,” he said.

Alternatives to curb shortage:

Though only 1 percent of Qatari land is used to grow crops, according to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization, but the country has commissioned pilot projects to farm without soil, using hydroponics technology, and its $335 billion sovereign wealth fund owns rice, poultry, grain and livestock producers in Pakistan, Oman and Australia through its Hassad Food division.

‘One potential source of food imports is Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, whose cordial relationship with Qatar contributed to the diplomatic dispute. “Iran can ship food across the Gulf to reach Qatar in 12 hours,” said Reza Nourani, the chairman of Iran’s food exporters’ union, according to the Fars news agency’