The Saudi-led siege has forced Qatar to focus its efforts on self sufficiency and has boosted the state’s food production.
The air, sea and land blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in June, 2017 has done little to dampen the mood. Since then Qatar has pumped billions into creating a self-sufficient economy, one that is less reliant on its neighbours.
The country has restructured its import routes and agricultural sector. New maritime and air trade routes have opened, in particular to Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, and new trade agreements are being sought right around the world.
Qatar used to import 80% of its food from its Arab neighbours
Prior to the blockade, Qatar imported about 80 percent of its food requirements from its Arab neighbours, mainly the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Qatar now meets more than 90 percent of its needs for chicken and dairy products, and other food sources are becoming homegrown.
Local production used to cover only 15 percent of domestic demand for vegetables prior to the blockade, but that has increased dramatically since. There are 1,400 farms in Qatar, a third are now used for commercial use while two-thirds are owned by families for their personal consumption.
Baladna farm, one of the largest dairy and meat producers in Qatar, is a prime example of a success story. The siege has forced dairy production to increase ten-fold which has seen the sector become almost entirely self-sufficient.
According to Middle East Eye, Qatari agricultural development company Agrico has doubled its production since the siege and improved technology.
This expansion was made possible by years of experimentation in developing cutting-edge technology that fit the challenges faced.
Agrico’s all-inclusive greenhouses are designed to operate with minimal resources. Hydroponic farming depends on the use of a nutrient-rich solution on the roots of the plant instead of soil; and an advanced humidity, temperature and sunlight sensor system maximises yields by ensuring that plants grow in optimal conditions that are immune to the high temperatures outside of the glass structures.
“We have started to sell this technology to other Qatari farmers,” Nasser al-Khalaf says, to encourage the development of the “Made in Qatar” agricultural sector.
It’s not just in food where Qatar is focusing its efforts. The state recently announced that it has allocated US$2 billion to building a new financial centre to rival Dubai’s financial district.
The move is set to attract multi-national companies to Qatar which is likely to develop Doha into the finance capital of the region. Meaning the country will not only become more self-sufficient but will also be able to challenge for prime position in the GCC region.