Qatar's agriculture sector has risen above the challenges of the blockade, with an increasing number of companies utilizing cutting-edge technologies and new business models to bring the country closer to food security.

Nasser Al Khalaf

Managing Director, Agrico Agricultural Development

In terms of self-sufficiency, Qatar has made a great deal of progress, and we are just a few years away from being self-reliant for staple food items. Agrico is expanding this know-how, which we built locally, to other farms. We are also in communication with government bodies to spread this knowledge across the country, which will allow for year-round production. All farms in Qatar need to be educated because they have been using a certain system for a long time. At present, we have 120,000sqm of greenhouses with cooling systems and 120,000sqm of greenhouses without cooling systems. Moreover, we have about 20,000sqm of different farms in Qatar. We have some projects in the pipeline, and by end-2019, we plan to have 1 million sqm of closed and environment-controlled greenhouses with our own Agrico systems. This will allow us to expand into all types of vegetables. We see ourselves as developers. We developed this greenhouse system ourselves, without help from any expert companies. The only thing we borrowed is the greenhouse structure. In 2013, we also started producing greenhouses. Now, we seek to develop indoor plantation for lettuce and green leaves. Moving forward, we want to raise greater awareness of new technologies and methods, in part through workshops, and convince farmers to convert to our technology.

Fahad Al Khalaf

CEO, Qatar Meat Production Company

The majority of the meat we process is from Brazil; Australia and Europe are our second and third-largest source, respectively. We work under international standard requirements and have all of the certificates, such as ISO and HACCP. We comply with international requirements, but also have our own division for quality control. We have 10 employees who are solely focused on quality. We cover all the current needs, from retail and wholesale to food sales. If the market needs a different kind of product that is not available here, we arrange delivery from elsewhere. For instance, in the past, some products used to come from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Jordan, or Turkey, though now we are developing products to be produced locally. In order to create the entire supply chain locally, we plan to do farming in Qatar by end-2019, and livestock and slaughtering will follow in the near future. Besides that, Baladna, which is working in Qatar, plans to open a slaughterhouse for veal meat distribution in the Qatari market. We will become one of its clients, mostly because of the freshness and quality of the meat, though also because we can be 100% certain the animals were slaughtered in a halal manner. As well, we can capitalize on the “Made in Qatar” brand. In the future, our priority is to expand internationally. We already export to Kuwait and are planning to export to Jordan, Iraq, and Africa.

Raed Al-Khalaf

Chairman, Al Raed Fresh Food

In hindsight, the blockade has benefited us. For example, we are building a factory to increase in-country production. We already have a frozen line for fruits and vegetables for the local market, and we have a fresh-cut production line, providing the majority of catering for the food service and retail sectors. Notably, Al Raed has a packing and sorting system for local growers and one of the largest chiller systems in Qatar, capable of storing up to 11,000 tons. We are designing a carbonated soda drinks production line in our factory that will help us further secure our position in the local market. At present, there are 32 traders in the Qatar market, and we are one of the top three. This is because we incorporate the best available technology and follow rigid quality standards and quality control measures. For example, we have an automated ripening system imported from France, enabling us to prepare fruits for the market in one day. In the next few years, we plan to export. We were previously exporting to six or seven countries, but at present we are busy just covering the Qatari market. Before the blockade, we supplied 50% of total market needs; now, we cover 78% of the Qatari market with our Waterproofing Factory. Our business model is to achieve the complete cycle, and in 2019, we will launch more products to meet market needs.