Expo 2023 Doha: Qatar Makes Noticeable Progress in Self Sufficiency from Agricultural Products
Doha, September 28 (QNA) - Like many other GCC countries, agriculture in Qatar used to revolve around oases and some desert areas, especially in the north. Qatar benefited from the relatively increased rainfall rates, groundwater, surface water, springs, and other water sources, as well as scattered agricultural practices that were in harmony with the region's climate.
Over time, Qatar has increased its focus on both plant and animal agriculture. This vital sector receives close attention from the government and unlimited support from the wise leadership, recognizing it as a pillar of development.
Amid the challenges of climate change and its associated crises, such as food shortages, many countries are striving to secure their food security. Qatar has successfully achieved significant accomplishments in the development of its agricultural sector, thanks to the visionary leadership of HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. He has prioritized the development of natural resources, particularly agriculture, as a national priority, aiming for self-sufficiency and food security. This includes the adoption of policies, strategies, and innovative techniques to serve both agricultural and environmental sustainability.
The State of Qatar also sets its sights on promoting optimal investment in technology, research and development, and food control, as they are essential foundations for raising the volume and quality of agricultural, animal and fishery production in safe and sustainable ways, in line with the objectives of the States National Development Strategy, which is to increase the proportion of local livestock production to 30 percent and Fish to 65 percent, in a step in support of Qatar National Vision 2030, which consolidates Qatars leadership as an advanced country capable of achieving sustainable development and providing a decent living for its people and residents of its land.
Underpinned by well-thought-out policies and ambitious plans and strategies, the recent period has witnessed the concerted efforts of all relevant entities in Qatar, with the Ministry of Municipality at the forefront, to drive agricultural production forward in order to achieve the desired food security. These efforts have led to significant successes and important breakthroughs.
The Ministry has provided various means to support and assist agricultural producers, including the distribution of agricultural support materials such as greenhouses, beehives, and agricultural production necessities like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and marketing packages. Livestock breeders are supported with concentrated feed and livestock production necessities, such as milking machines and wool shearing equipment. Additionally, municipal poultry vaccinations, fishers, and fisheries have received support.
Qatar's efforts to develop the agricultural sector and increase self-sufficiency rates in various local agricultural products have had a positive impact. Qatar ranked first in the Arab world and twenty-fourth globally in the 2021 Global Food Security Index, jumping 13 places. This achievement reflects the country's continuous efforts in the field of food security, especially as Qatar's National Food Security Strategy 2018-2023 focuses on enhancing national food production, diversifying import sources, and establishing a strategic reserve to balance food stocks. The state has also sought to develop food and agricultural policies, infrastructure, and placed significant emphasis on food security research, establishing a fund for agricultural and food research, and intensifying efforts to adapt to climate change, conserve various resources, and utilize renewable energy in the agricultural sector.
The new National Food Security Strategy 2024-2030, to be implemented starting at the end of April next year, focuses on elements such as sustainability, reliance on modern technology, innovation in the agricultural sector, and increasing agricultural production during the summer season through the adoption of modern agricultural techniques.
In this context, Director of the Food Security Department at the Ministry of Municipality Dr. Masoud Jarallah Al Marri, highlighted significant achievements in terms of self-sufficiency rates for essential food products such as meat, vegetables, fish, table eggs, and animal feed nearing the end of the National Food Security Strategy 2018-2023.
Dr. Al Marri said that self-sufficiency rates for essential food products have significantly improved, largely attributed to the enhancement of local production, a key strategic target. It is one of the main pillars of the National Food Security Strategy 2018-2023, which aimed to increase local production of rapidly perishable agricultural food products to avoid disruption in supply chains and achieve food security for the country.
He noted that the strategy focused on specific commodities, including greenhouse vegetables, dairy and its derivatives, fresh poultry, red meat, table eggs, and the production of green animal feed using treated water.
Dr. Al Marri also highlighted that the self-sufficiency rate for fresh fish has also increased by up to 25 percent, reaching 84 percent compared to approximately 67 percent in 2018. Self-sufficiency in other targeted commodities has also seen varying increases. For instance, self-sufficiency in greenhouse vegetables has reached 42 percent, compared to around 32 percent in 2018, while self-sufficiency in table eggs has reached 37 percent, compared to approximately 24 percent in 2018.
Dr. Al Marri further mentioned that several new table egg production projects are expected to start production by the end of this year, covering about 40 percent of local consumption. This will raise the self-sufficiency rate for table eggs to approximately 77 percent.
Dr. Al Marri revealed in remarks to the Qatar News Agency (QNA) that the self-sufficiency rate of red meat in the country has reached 19 percent. He added that work is currently underway on several projects that are expected to increase self-sufficiency in red meat.
Regarding the production of green fodder, Dr. Al Marri mentioned that the strategic direction is to completely stop the production of green fodder using groundwater and transition to the use of treated water. He explained that the percentage of green fodder produced using treated water is currently around 39 percent.
As for the key pillars of the new National Food Security Strategy 2023 - 2030, Dr. Al Marri mentioned several aspects. The first one relates to local production and the market. It includes initiatives aimed at enhancing local production of several essential food items such as vegetables, red meat, fish, dairy products, and poultry, which will contribute to food self-sufficiency and promote sustainable agriculture. The strategy also aims to reduce the use of groundwater in agriculture and encourage sustainability and climate change adaptation through the adoption of modern irrigation systems.
The second pillar focuses on strategic stockpiles and alert systems, Dr. Al Marri explained that it includes initiatives related to expanding and improving strategic stockpiles of essential food items and important commodities during disasters and emergencies to enhance food security. This involves building a strategic reserve of agricultural, animal, and fish inputs, analyzing operational models, and developing alert systems to monitor strategic stockpiles.
Regarding the third pillar (international trade and investment), he said that it includes several initiatives. These initiatives aim to protect local food producers through the implementation of trade measures, diversify sources of imports, establish a regional trade center, and leverage the facilities of Hamad International Port to position Qatar as a regional trade hub for key food items that enhance food security. The strategy also aims to link external investments to food security, such as investments in green fodder and red meat production, to further strengthen food security in Qatar.
When asked about new agricultural projects to support food security in the country, whether in the public or private sector, Dr. Al Marri said that they include improving efficiency and professionalism in existing agricultural projects to enhance and develop local production of essential products. This will contribute to food self-sufficiency in necessary food items, in addition to supporting the establishment of new aquaculture projects to enhance local production of fresh fish.
He also mentioned that these projects aim to improve the efficiency of water resource utilization in agriculture, reduce the use of groundwater by discontinuing the cultivation of water-intensive crops such as fodder, promote sustainable food systems, and develop a program to reduce food waste and enhance the circular economy, all of which will contribute to strengthening food security in Qatar.
Regarding the second part of the agricultural sector, the livestock production, Director of the Livestock Department in the Ministry of Municipality Eng. Abdulaziz Mahmoud Al Ziyara, said in an exclusive statement to the Qatar News Agency (QNA) that livestock is a renewable natural resource that the administration works on nurturing and developing its breeding activities.
He added, in a related context, that the state has focused in various sectors on ensuring the continuity of this activity and transforming it from a socially consumed activity into a profitable economic activity that contributes to its food security. He pointed out that through the collaboration between the government and the private sector, represented by breeders and producers, the livestock sector has made a significant contribution to increasing Qatar's self-sufficiency rates in animal products, ranking Qatar first in the Arab world and 24th globally in the Global Food Security Index.
Al Ziyara revealed that the total livestock in Qatar reached 1,320,625 head, with the number of camels being 106,972 head, accounting for 8 percent of the country's livestock. Cattle numbered 41,575, making up 3 percent of the total livestock, while goats numbered 358,137, constituting 27 percent of the total livestock. The number of sheep reached 813,941, accounting for 62 percent of the country's total livestock. There are 8,151 registered livestock breeders in the ministry's records.
Eng. Al Ziyara explained that livestock farming in the country is regulated in farms and enclosures. The number of mixed farms (engaging in livestock farming in addition to agricultural activities) reached 647 farms, while the total number of licensed enclosures (traditional animal holdings without agricultural activity) is 6,795 enclosures (mobile enclosures + enclosures outside the planning + complex enclosures). The licensed enclosures in 9 complexes reached 4,987 enclosures.
Recognizing the importance of expanding fish farming projects, the Ministry of Municipality established the Aquatic Research Center in Ras Matbakh, which is one of the important production research centers supporting the aquaculture sector in the country. Furthermore, acknowledging the significant role of the private sector in achieving comprehensive economic development and food security in the country, the ministry has proposed several agricultural investment projects, including the establishment of concentrated feed factories, organic fertilizer production, sheep breeding and fattening, among others, which has significantly increased productivity.
The ministry has also been organizing annual international agricultural exhibitions to exchange expertise and learn about the latest agricultural production products and innovative techniques globally, contributing to the support of the agricultural sector. In addition, it has launched several marketing programs for Qatari agricultural products, such as the Qatari Agricultural Product Market, Special Vegetables Programs, Qatar Farms, the Advance Contracting Program with Farmers, and the Daily Supply Program in collaboration with Crop Company, all aimed at enhancing the value of local vegetable products.
Among the agricultural and green initiatives is the one concerned with planting one million trees, reflecting the importance of sustainability as one of the main topics to be addressed at Expo 2023 Doha, scheduled to launch in October next year. Additionally, the ministry is implementing the Agricultural Census project, conducting various applied research, tissue culture farming, developing enclosure complexes, studying the impact of treated water on animal feed production, improving agricultural services, and implementing digital transformation and agricultural digitization projects, among others.
All government plans, strategies, and initiatives related to the agriculture sector and the support provided by the state have contributed to a significant increase in production in recent years. This increase, along with the expansion of cultivated areas and the localization of agricultural facilities, has enhanced local production by utilizing advanced crop production techniques suitable for local climate conditions, resulting in a clear increase in self-sufficiency rates in essential food commodities. (QNA)