Qatar – Opportunities in Food/Farming Sector
Food security in Qatar grew in importance following the 2017 Gulf Rift that halted food supply lines overnight from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar has built a self-sustaining dairy industry since the onset of the Rift, and is seeking strengthened food security in a variety of other agricultural industries.
Qatar’s population has more than quadrupled since 2000, increasing dependence on food imports and leading to a growing sense of national food insecurity. There are numerous opportunities for improving Qatar’s food reserves, implementing water-conserving agricultural technologies, improving local food standards and testing, building an aquaculture industry, and developing climate-resistant crops.
By 2015, Qatar imported about 80 percent of its food, primarily from the Middle East and to a far lesser extent from the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Qatar relied on imports for a wide range of food products, including cereals, dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables. Saudi Arabia was the principal supplier of poultry and dairy products, while countries in the Levant (Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria) supplied most fruits and vegetables.
As a result, the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP) was established in 2008 to reduce Qatar’s reliance on food imports through improved self-sufficiency. The QNFSP develops recommendations for food security policy and works with foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to develop practices that utilize resources efficiently within the agricultural sector.
Qatar has made its most significant strides in increasing its local food production since the onset of the 2017 Gulf Rift, with Qatari agricultural, fish, animal and dairy products experiencing four-fold increases over the last three years. In fact, Qatar invested hundreds of millions in purchases of dairy cattle, equipment, and technologies – mostly from the U.S. and Europe – and is now self-sufficient in dairy production. Prior to the Rift, Qatar imported 85 percent of its vegetables, but within the next three years, Qatar has aims to produce 60 percent of the local demand, creating opportunities for U.S. companies in vertical farming, . The Ministry of Municipality and Environment plans to increase livestock and fish production to 30 percent and 65 percent respectively, by 2022.
The cultivation of food crops is a difficult task in Qatar due to extremely high temperatures, desert climate, acute lack of rain/water, and limited availability of fertile soil. The Ministry of Municipality and Environment (http://www.mme.gov.qa), which is responsible for policy and programs related to agriculture and food security, has expressed keen interest in working with U.S. companies to adopt new technologies and develop solutions to overcome Qatar’s water supply challenges. Since Qatar is heavily dependent on its limited groundwater supply for agriculture, Qatar is actively seeking innovative agricultural technologies to increase the use of treated sewage and desalinated water for human-consumption crops. Aquaponics, vertical farming, and similar technologies are some of the new techniques that Qatar is exploring to increase the sustainability and reliability of its water supplies, thus achieving a national food security goal of improving resilience and self-reliance for their national food stocks.
The Ministry of Municipality and Environment has teamed up with Hassad Food, the agricultural investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, to lead private sector execution on QNFSP plans. Their strategy focuses on increasing local production of perishable goods, implementing measures for sustaining a reliable local strategic reserve, diversifying sources of food imports, and maintaining sufficient supply in the local market.
Next steps for the U.S. client
U.S. companies with products and services offering solutions to these challenges should work with Anissa Lahreche, Senior Commercial Specialist (Anissa.Lahreche@trade.gov) at the U.S. Commercial Service in Qatar to explore matchmaking, market research, and other assistance that may prove beneficial.
Additionally, U.S. firms interested in expanding sales of innovative agricultural technologies in Qatar should consider attending Qatar Agriteq. Agriteq is the only event in Qatar where local and international agriculture professionals exchange expertise, discover trends and developments, and seize business opportunities in this sector. Agriteq is also an ideal platform for industry specialists to meet key Qatari decision makers, gain valuable insights, and hear first-hand about the technologies that Qatar seeks and the opportunities that exist.