(MENAFN - The Peninsula) By Mohammad Shoeb / The Peninsula
The ongoing blockade imposed by some of Qatar's neighbouring countries has invigorated local farmers' desire to make the country self-sufficient in terms of food production, says a leading Qatari investor in agriculture and food industry.
Abdullah Salem Al Sulaitin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Sultinin Agricultural Complex, stressed that with the unjust siege in place, the importance of food-security has become a 'necessity.
'It's a more pressing issue now. The siege has made us look into it as a matter of national security. Self-sufficiency in food production is achievable, but it requires a strategy coupled with public and private sector efforts, he said.
Abdullah Salem Al Sulaitin
Al Sulaitin, a major investor in Qatar's food and agriculture sector, believes that with the support of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Qatari farmers can do more in the production of quality food and distribute them at reasonable prices. To further boost local production, farmers are expecting more support from the government.
Abdullah Salem Al Sulaitin also advocated for establishing more projects related to agricultural and food processing inside as well as outside the country in collaboration with the private sector.
Al Sulaitin noted that there are certain obstacles and problems facing the local agriculture sector about which the Minister is well aware of.
'By addressing farmers' concerns, which include low prices for local products, high cost of technologies, installing modern production system such as greenhouses, local production can receive a major boost, Al Sulaitin told Al Sharq in an interview.
He reiterated that government must play its role in overcoming obstacles, providing moral and material support to existing projects and leaving the task of establishing and managing new projects to the private sector.
He also highlighted that government's decision to establish separate markets and setting up special prices for local produces, which has helped improving local farmers competitiveness.
'We do not see farming just as a business proposition. It's our responsibility to boost the production of food and vegetables locally as much as we can, so that no one dictates our will or violates our sovereignty, Al Sulaitin stressed.
Asked about the impact of the siege on local farms, especially on greenhouses and running hydroponic farms, he said: 'Of course, there was an impact, but thanks to the measures taken by the state to open channels with friendly countries, the impact has remained limited, and government measures have contributed to alleviating the negative effects of the blockade.
Al Sulaitin Agricultural Complex was one of the early farms to witness greenhouses in the country, which today cover about 26 thousand square metres of the total area of the complex. He stressed on the need to promoting food and food processing industries in a big way not only to meet domestic demand but to export also.
In Qatar, total number of food processing factories by the end of 2016 was 66, which represented 8 percent of the total manufacturing factories in the country, data released by GOIC show.
According to official data, the contribution of Qatar's agricultural sector in the GDP is a little more than 4 percent. But Al Sulaiteen advocates that the agricultural sector should not be measured by what it achieved relative to the total production.
'Food should be available to all at reasonable prices, whether the consumer is rich or poor, large or small, citizen or resident, he pointed out.