It will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly shops in Qatar’s supermarkets to hear that over 90% of the food on the shelves is imported from abroad, making the country extremely vulnerable to price hikes, embargoes and supply disruptions. Taking control of the food supply chain is known as ‘food security’ and it’s one of the most important challenges facing Qatar in the coming years.
That’s the view of Dr. Samsul Huda of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, who is head of a multidisciplinary international team examining how best to use Qatar’s resources to maximize domestic crop productivity within Qatar, but also looking at land purchasing and contract farming in resource-rich countries in temperate and tropical climates in Africa, Asia, and Australasia. Qatar produces only about 8-10 percent of food that it consumes, yet domestic production is significantly constrained by several factors; adverse climatic conditions, quality of soils, scarcity of irrigation water, inappropriate crop rotation, market constraints, and ineffective farming practices and subsidies.
“It’s initially a problem of perception”, explains Dr. Huda. “If you ask the average man on the street here, the response will probably be ‘there is no problem! I can get food whenever and wherever I want’”. However, when a country relies on external markets for its food, it could find itself in trouble should the exporting countries undergo instability, climatic changes, natural disasters, crop disease, or changes in political whims which mean that exports are restricted.