Experts discuss plans and achievements in food security and self-sufficiency during Qur’anic Botanic Garden event
Qatar has witnessed huge growth in local agriculture production over the past two years, and aims to become 70 per cent self-sufficient in its supplies of fruit and vegetables over the coming years.
The catalyst for this drive to achieve food security was the blockade that was imposed in 2017, but this has now enabled Qatar to strengthen its resilience in the face of COVID-19. The nation’s progress in this area was placed in focus by experts during a webinar hosted by the Qur’anic Botanic Garden, a member of Qatar Foundation (QF).
The discussion – titled Sustainability of Qatari Agriculture in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic – shed light on how national collaboration is enabling Qatar to produce more of its own food. It provided an overview of initiatives by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment to achieve food security and self-sufficiency, as well as the role of the private sector and its success in producing high-quality local products that match or surpass the standard of imported goods, despite Qatar’s harsh environmental conditions.
One of these companies is Agrico Agriculture Development, whose Managing Director, Nasser Al-Khalaf, told the webinar: “Agrico has developed agricultural technologies that could survive the climate in Qatar, which is characterized by water scarcity, high temperatures and humidity.
We have secured our agricultural production throughout the year, and are contributing to achieving agricultural sustainability in Qatar.
“We relied on hydroponics - agriculture using plastic bags – and also used coconut fiber as a substitute for soil, and this method has enabled us to control the temperature and the amount of water used, as well as helping us to avoid fertilizer waste. In this way, we have secured our agricultural production throughout the year, and are contributing to achieving agricultural sustainability in Qatar. "
The webinar also discussed how efficient management of production and supply chains are ensures local market demand is met amid the COVID-19 crisis. Mohamed Ali Al-Ghaithani, General Manager of Mahaseel for Marketing and Agricultural Services, said: “Mahaseel was established with the goal of supporting farmers and farms’ owners to market their product and to help execute the government initiatives related to food security.
“We have successfully played this role through actions such as distributing free special boxes that help farmers to safely transport their crops from farms to markets and storage houses, which have dramatically decreased crop waste. We also allocated a building with a capacity of 700–1,000 tons to receive crops and store them temporarily until they go into the markets.
From a safety prospective, which is particularly important in the current circumstances, the plastic boxes we are using are sterilized after each delivery through a special machine.
“From a safety prospective, which is particularly important in the current circumstances, the plastic boxes we are using are sterilized after each delivery through a special machine, to ensure the elimination of any viruses or bacteria that maybe caused by products waste.
Sarah Al Malki, Assistant Director of Food Security Department, Ministry of Municipality and Environment, highlighted the importance of a collaboration between the ministry and QF member Qatar National Research Fund to support Qatar’s strategic plans for food self-sufficiency, through a joint Food Security Call initiative. Launched in 2019 and with a second cycle due to run this year, it supports research that focuses on helping to develop productive and sustainable food systems.
The webinar also included insights from Qatar Development Bank, and addressed the pivotal role of agriculture research in reinforcing Qatar’s food supplies, running the rule over several projects designed to enhance the efficiency of the nation’s agricultural system.
Qur’anic Botanic Garden will host a further webinar on Thursday, May 14, at 9pm, which will discuss the effects of medical plants in boosting the immune system.