Qatar’s food security crisis and what India is doing about it


oi-Vicky Nanjappa


Updated: Thursday, June 9, 2022, 10:40 [IST]

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In 2021 India exported to Qatar, wheat and meslin worth $34.77 million according to the United Nations database.

New Delhi, Jun 09: India had earlier this week assured Qatar of its assistance in meeting the country’s food security. Qatar was hit with a severe food crisis after three of its neighbors, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties accusing the country of funding Islamic terrorism in 2017.

During his three day visit to Qatar, Vice-President, Venkaiah Naidu assured the Qatari leadership of India’s assistance in meeting Qatar’s food security. “Both sides discussed the impact of recent global developments on food and energy security. They renewed their long-term commitment to energy partnership. HVPI (Honourable Vice President of India) assured the Qatari leadership of India’s assistance in meeting Qatar’s food security,” an official statement read.

Qatars food security crisis and what India is doing about it

Qatar has been heavily dependent on India. In 2020 the main products exported by India to Qatar were rice, jewelry and gold. In the last 25 years exports from India to Qatar have increased from $29.3 million in 1995 to $1.34 billion in 2020.

Following the war in Ukraine, India decided to ban the export of wheat in May. The decision which was taken for India’s internal benefit however impacted countries in the Middle East. Countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Malaysia are some of the countries impacted by the ban.

India’s wheat exports are mainly to neighboring countries with Bangladesh having the largest share of more than 54 per cent in both volume and value terms in 2020-21. In 2020-21, India entered new wheat markets such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Qatar and Indonesia, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a 2021 release.

The top ten importing countries for Indian wheat in 2020-21 are Bangladesh, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Afghanistan, Qatar, Indonesia, Oman and Malaysia, according to data by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) . Top ten countries which accounted for more than 94 per cent of India’s wheat exports in 2016-17, now have 99 per cent share in exports in 2020-21 both volume and value terms, the ministry said.

Qatar which is a water-scarce nation finds it difficult to cultivate food crops. It is also vulnerable to fluctuations in the international commodity markets because of heavy dependence on imported grains and food items. This is one of the main reasons why there is food insecurity in Qatar.

Food security has always been top on Qatar’s list. The country depends on food imports and India has been assisting the Gulf nation in terms of its growth of livestock and cropping for many years now.

During the food crisis in 2017, India as an immediate relief sent food and supplies to Doha through direct shipping routes linking Qatar’s Hamad Port to India’s ports in Nhava Sheva and Mundra.

According to Statista in 2019, the food sufficiency ration of cereals in Qatar was at 0.2 per cent while in the case of milk and dairy it was 72.8 per cent. When it came to vegetables it was at 19.3 per cent while in the case of meat and fruits it was at 12.1 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively.

According to Trading Economics in 2020 Qatar imported $144 million worth of cereals from India while in the case of pearls, precious stones, metals and coins it was at $128 million. Vegetables and certain roots and tubes worth 54.6 million were exported by India to Qatar in 2020.

India’s exports of wheat and meslin to Qatar was $34.77 million during 2021, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. Meslin is a mixture of wheat and rye that is sown and harvested together and is usually classified with wheat.

Qatar Imports from India Value Year
Cereals $144.55M 2020
Pearls, precious stones, metals, coins $128.00M 2020
Articles of iron or steel $115.09M 2020
Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers $73.03M 2020
Electrical, electronic equipment $67.12M 2020
Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubes $54.67M 2020
Plastics $50.17M 2020
Iron and steel $45.53M 2020
Vehicles other than railway, tramway $42.42M 2020
Edible fruits, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons $38.52M 2020
Source: Trading Economics

A report in EcoMENA Qatar being one of the fastest growing in the world is facing a large influx of expatriate workers and this has resulted in tremendous increase in population. There is limited availability of land and chronic water shortage. Constraints in agriculture growth have led to growing concerns about food security.

Qatar imports 90 per cent of its food requirements due to scarcity of irrigation water, poor quality solids and inhibitions due to climatic conditions. The country is also facing an agriculture trade deficit of QR 4.38 billion which is equivalent to $1.2 billion, the EcoMENA report also said.

The Qatar National Food Security Program was established in 2008 with the aim of reducing the country’s reliance on food imports through self-sufficiency. The program is not only aimed at making recommendations for Food Security Policy but also intends to join with international organizations and NGOs to develop practices to utilize resources efficiencies with the agriculture sector.

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