What actions is the government taking to increase local production in agricultural affairs and fisheries and secure self-sufficiency in staple food items?
The agricultural sector is considered one of the most important and vital sectors of Qatar's national economy. The government aims to achieve food security through vertical and horizontal development programs, where the former increases productivity by encouraging and expanding the use of modern technology in the fields of plant, livestock, and fish production. Horizontally, there is a focus on increasing vegetable, livestock, and fish-related activities by increasing the area of cultivated land and the number of animals and fisheries. The Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) aims to raise the level of self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector up to 65% within a short time and has adopted 10 strategic projects for the production of greenhouse vegetables to private sector investors with a total area of 100,000sqm per project and a total production capacity of 21,000 tons per year; proposed 24 new strategic projects for the production of greenhouse vegetables to private sector investors with a total area of 100,000sqm per project and a total production capacity of 50,400 tons per year; and provided existing farms with 3,500 greenhouses and 2,000 beehives with all its requirements, in addition to supporting agricultural production requirements. Qatari date production has also increased from 28,000 tons in 2017, approximately 84% of local consumption, to 29,500 tons, or 86% self-sufficiency. MME supports date-producing farms to achieve 90% self-sufficiency within a year. Qatari greenfield production has increased from 95,000 tons in 2017 to 105,000 tons in 2018, achieving 54% self-sufficiency. MME's strategy focuses on increasing greenfield production, irrigating with treated wastewater, and reducing land areas irrigated with groundwater. Local milk production has increased from about 60,000 tons in 2017, approximately 60% of local consumption, to 220,000 tons, with complete self-sufficiency. Qatar was also able to achieve a substantial increase in fresh poultry production from about 11,000 tons in 2017, approximately 50% of local consumption, to 22,000 tons per year, or complete self-sufficiency. Egg production has increased from about 4,000 tons in 2017, covering 14% of local consumption, to 7,000 tons, or 23% self-sufficiency. MME will shortly propose projects for the production of farm eggs in coordination with Qatar Development Bank. Local egg production is projected to cover 65% of local needs within two years. As for red meat, the number of economic animals in Qatar has witnessed a huge increase over the past few years from about 1.3 million heads in 2017 to more than 1.6 million in 2018. The number of cattle farmers currently stands at 17,000 from 15,000 in 2017. The local fish sector produces a total of 15,000 tons per year, which covers 75% of the state's fresh fish needs. MME has placed great importance on fish farming projects to increase production to cover 85% of local fish consumption. A new fish farming project, with a capacity of 2,000 tons per year, using floating cages, has been awarded, and two more projects will be tendered soon. MME has also proposed a shrimp farming investment project with a capacity of 1,000 tons to help Qatar reach complete self-sufficiency in two years. MME is a firm believer of scientific research to develop the agricultural sector and improve the performance level of this vital and essential sector. We have finalized the construction of the Maritime Research Center in Ras Al Matbakh tasked with conducting research on the development of fish farming and providing the fingerlings necessary to establishing 10 small fish farming projects in Qatar. MME also established a Livestock Wealth Research Center in Al Shiehana to develop livestock production research and artificial insemination technology aimed at increasing the country's livestock production.