The oft-repeated advice of Machiavelli, the 15th century Italian diplomat, politician and philosopher, “Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis,” appears to be taking effect in Qatar.
At a time when Qatar is facing some sort of a hardship in meeting the optimum requirement of food supply in the local market, thanks to the blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, various countries have expressed willingness to set up food manufacturing units in the country. Qatar has been largely reliant on its now hostile neighbours for food products since decades. Almost 80% of food requirements were sourced from UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Qatar has tried to ease the blow of the embargo by turning to Turkey and Iran for food imports, but a long-term, sustainable solution lies only in making itself self-reliant.
Many leading food manufacturers from India, Iran and Turkey want to make the most of Qatar’s growing image as a prime destination for investment in food industry. The Government has promised full support in a bid to diversify the economy.
The International Fairs and Promotions (IFP) general manager in Doha, George Ayache, informed the media on the sidelines of ‘Hospitality Qatar’ exhibition that a Turkish company specialising in yoghurt production will likely open soon. An Indian food processing and packaging materials and technology company is already in the process of finalising the deal. Some Iranian firms are keen, too.
‘Food Qatar’ is an important addition to the exhibition. Over 153 companies from 16 nations are said to attend the three-day event, which includes Turkey, Spain, India and Iran. This new section will operate as a platform for local, regional and international food suppliers and manufacturers to keep in touch with buyers and traders in Qatar’s market, which is predicted to rise to $1.6 billion by 2020.
Reliance on others for the most basic necessity, food, meant that the country was at the mercy of others. The Arab bloc attempted to exploit this advantage by making 13 demands, by choking food supply, by cutting off all connection with Doha. It accused Doha of supporting terrorism, a charge that Qatar has denied. It has not been a good situation to be in for Qatar, but adversity opens new doors.
In many ways, the blockade could prove to be a boon. The intention of foreign food manufactures to ‘produce in Qatar’ is expected to act as a cue for many others to join the bandwagon, a phenomenon that will ultimately solve Qatar’s one of the biggest tight spots.
Qatar is not only securing itself on the matter of food supply, it has opened alternative channels on different fronts. It has already started new direct shipping routes to deal with the crisis and port officials have said before that the new geo-political scenario is helping the nation close new transport contracts, which will end its reliance on its Gulf neighbours.
A ship on a new direct weekly service from India’s Mundra Port is already operational. World’s biggest container line, Maersk of Denmark, accepted fresh bookings for container shipments to Qatar from the port of Salalah in Oman.
It’s a difficult phase that Qatar will have to go through, but will eventually lead to a fresh period of new alliances and friendships. This new direction, of moving towards producing its own food, has the potential to be a game-changer in the region.