Qatar is located in a very poor farmland region. Rainfall is low, irrigation systems are underdeveloped, farming labor is scarce, and the land is dry. With a growing population, Qatar relied heavily on food that’s imported from overseas. In fact, as much as 80% of the food needs were imported by their Gulf Arab neighbors. The embargo on Qatar involves Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
Food security just ten years ago had to do with the route access and the supply chain regardless of the cost. But now, “the diplomatic and economic boycott has forced the Qataris to seek alternative food suppliers and alternative air and sea shipment routes. Yet the de facto strategy by Abu Dhabi and Riyadh is to drive up the cost of Qatari food and other imports — to the point that Doha can no longer afford the more expensive imports” (Dorsey, FairObserver).
Beginning last June, Qatar has been in a food crisis. With no sign of the blockade coming to an end, Qatar’s self-sufficiency has reached new levels. While originally seeking help from allies Iran and Turkey, Qatar has moved to importing cows from Germany, Australia, and the U.S. With this, they plan to grow their own herd and serve as their own milk supplier.
According to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Qatar has been able to accomplish 98% self-sufficiency in poultry, mostly chicken production. As for dairy products however, they are only 82% self-sufficient.
There are only three working dairy farms in the country to date, but there has been a huge push to open four new ones in the near future. A major goal is to be able to produce enough red meat and eggs to feed the country without import within the next two years.
Besides the Gulf Coast Cooperation Council, Qatar also relies on the Gulf Standards Organization (GSO), CODEX Alimentarius, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). With the blockade in full force, local producers are meeting standards. The local production rather than imports actually reduces the chance of contamination.
The population of Qatar is expanding rapidly. Food imports can become very volatile with pricing and politics becoming a major factor in feeding a country of people. Qatar is in need of domestic food sources and long-term sustainable strategies to provide consistent, regulated products. The room for growth in Qatar’s food industry is massive, but meeting standards and obligatory regulations are the largest obstacle in the industry. Over the last few months they’ve been able to successfully make push their way through reliance and towards self-sufficiency. Maintaining the progress is key however if Qatar intends to keep their political stances.