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 Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar has been a journalist since 2013 at Gulf Times, reporting on events related to Qatar. He was earlier a journalist for eight years in the Philippines. He became one of the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Goals Press Fellows. He has also attended a number of journalism seminars in the Philippines.
Dr Mohamed Althaf
'Qatar making good progress with green initiatives, food security'

 Qatar’s efforts to protect the environment and attain food security continue to make headway as the government focuses more on sustainable solutions to address challenges, LuLu Group International director Dr Mohamed Althaf has said. Speaking to *Gulf Times, he lauded Qatar for its initiatives – charted in the country’s climate change strategies and action plan – that are centred on achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While Qatar is a small country and “already on the worst side of the weather”, Dr Althaf stressed that “Qatar is making good progress in that regard now, and that is why private companies like us are participating in many of those initiatives”. “We are targeting to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and go carbon neutral by 2050,” he stated. “And I think, with what we are doing and the progress that we are seeing, we are making very good progress and I hope we will achieve those numbers even before the deadlines.” Dr Althaf was sharing his view about Qatar’s key role in the fight against climate change and other environmental challenges, as well as the country’s policies towards self-sufficiency on food, at the 9th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and 3rd Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ). LuLu participated in the five-day event at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, which concluded yesterday (March 14). It brought together more than 650 local and international entities from the agriculture, environment, food and animal production industries. Organisers noted that AgriteQ and EnviroteQ provided “opportunities for industry specialists to explore a wide range of agricultural technologies, equipment, and related products, meet key decision-makers, gain valuable insights, and discover the best practices”. From a food security perspective, Dr Althaf said that Qatar, despite experiencing numeorus disruptions, has become “very wise in terms of devising its policies, and what Qatar has achieved is that there is a very good co-operation and blending of synergies between public and private sector players”. He said that the Qatar government has partnered and supported people and institutions, providing broad guidelines and creating infrastructure to achieve its food security goals. According to Dr Althaf, Qatar has been attracting foreign direct investments due to its sound food security strategy and diversification efforts. “I think a lot of initiatives are taken, and Qatar stands far more confident, stronger in terms of the food security component,” he said.    

Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas
Qatar a regional agri hub, says Italian envoy

Qatar is now an agricultural hub within the region, allowing many companies to operate and expand their businesses, Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas has said. “It’s not just a local market that is interesting, but also the positioning of Qatar as a logistical hub, as a platform to reach other markets in the region,” he observed. Prunas was speaking on the sidelines of the 9th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and the 3rd Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ), which conclude today (March 14) at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) – Trade Promotion Office of the Italian embassy is participating in the event, hosting five companies from the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Federation, “Federunacoma”, at a 120sq m pavillion. The ambassador said that Qatar is a promising market that is both a local market and a platform for the region, which is “a very important aspect to be analysed for Italian companies”. “Qatar is a small but ambitious country, and it is amazing that it is now exporting dairy products,” Prunas said. “This tells you that magnitude of the ambition of the Qatar authorities when it comes to agricultural self-sufficiency … and (Italy) has the technical solutions, we have lots of expertise, we would gladly trade with Qatar and expand our exports here.” The envoy noted that Italy has been renowned for its organic farming (possibly the largest production in Europe) – an expertise it is currently sharing with Qatar, and “we are more than willing to continue sharing it with them”. Prunas said that Italy has many research programmes with Qatar and has successfully linked their scientific institutions with Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (Qeeri). He added that the Italians have been in contact with Qeeri “about six months now, they already have some talks with Italian research institutes, and the aim is to help finding environmental solutions (that are also) also solutions for agriculture”. About AgriteQ and EnviroteQ, Prunas said that the exhibitions have become greener, bigger, and continuously growing – “a clear indication of how much (Qatar is) interested in agriculture and environmental solutions, and it looks very promising and we will surely be continuing partnering with Qatar on this matter”.    

Sidi Rana Menggala
'Indonesian expertise available for Qatar in spices production'

Indonesia is willing to share its expertise with Qatar in spice production, aimed at further boosting the latter’s growing agriculture sector and self-sufficiency efforts, according to Sustainable Spices Initiative – Indonesia executive director Sidi Rana Menggala. “Qatar could improve its bilateral relations in areas of agriculture to benefit from spices and other agricultural products abundant in the country; Indonesia can provide Qatar with the needed expertise to improve its spices and other agricultural products industry,” he said. Menggala was one of the speakers at the 9th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and the 3rd Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ), which concludes today (March 14) at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. In his presentation, titled ‘Strengthening Partnership Qatar and Indonesia for Spices’, he said enhancing their collaboration will play a key role in further improving both countries’ agriculture sectors and “could serve as an essential avenue for foreign exchange earnings and help improve their economies in general. “Through the collaboration, with the output as earlier that can boost food production and create employment”, Menggala stressed. He noted that Qatar, despite having harsh summer, can grow spices such as black and white pepper, among others, using modern farming technologies. Qatar and Indonesia, Menggala said, use various spices in their cuisine, besides offering a unique characteristic of plant species used as spices. He pointed out that while spices are plant materials (seeds, fruits, leaves, root buds, whole plants) traditionally used for flavouring, garnishing, or improving the quality of food, “they occupy a pivotal role in the traditional health care system as medicine, perfumes, and cosmetics for traditional rites.” Menggala said Qatar imported $18.9mn in spices in 2019, becoming the 35th largest importer of spices in the world. In the same year, he noted that spices was the 258th most imported product in Qatar and primarily from India ($5.96mn), China ($4.96mn), Iran ($2.67mn), Pakistan ($1.29mn), and Netherlands ($1.25mn). “What about Indonesia, especially for spices? Indonesia is a country rich in abundant natural resources, one of which is spices. Currently, spice commodities are still one of the leading export commodities to European and American countries. “Types of Indonesian spices that are well known to the world include pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, turmeric, and ginger. Based on data released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2016, Indonesia occupies the fourth largest position in the world as a spice-producing country with a total production of 113,649 tonnes and total exports reaching $652.3mn. “This is the entry-point of the south-south partnership, where educators, trainers, and other professional agriculture experts from Indonesia may have the opportunity to enrich the production and postproduction of agriculture-spices practices that lead to increased import of Indonesian spices to Qatar,” he said. Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan said that high-quality agricultural products, as well as farming technologies, are being showcased at the event. These include spices and herbs, tea and coffee, various kinds of end-products from moringa and processed food from agricultural or fishery items. He stressed that the Indonesian government is working with the relevant ministries, as well as private sector, in Qatar "to discuss the cooperation that we can further elaborate in the agriculture sector, considering the two countries share the view of the importance of food security."    

Dr Althaf with LuLu's 'reduce.recycle' machine at AgriteQ 2022.
LuLu Group steps up green and sustainability practices

LuLu Group International has stepped up its green and sustainability practices, showcasing a number of initiatives at the 9th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and 3rd Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ). “We are revealing our ‘reduce.recycle’ machine here … this is a first and we are launching it across LuLu stores,” LuLu Group International director Dr Mohamed Althaf told *Gulf Times on the sidelines of the exhibitions taking place at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. “We are now in a position to reduce and recycle the plastics and cans in all our supermarkets.” LuLu, which has set up a pavilion at the event, plans to install one “reduce.recycle” machine in every LuLu store across the country as part of its commitment to protecting the environment. Depending on the demand, Dr Althaf said that LuLu is looking into increasing the number of these machines and will start working with companies to at least use 50% of their packaging from recycled materials. It is learnt that LuLu has been continuously exerting efforts to help reduce carbon emissions and food waste, in addition to promoting healthy eating through an array of programmes. Dr Althaf noted that LuLu’s pavillion at AgriteQ and EnviroteQ 2022 puts a spotlight on how much of localisation that the company has done in terms of food production, increasing the category of local food products. “We are growing our category of local production tremendously on fruits and vegetables, (in which) we have achieved very high numbers … and the meat and poultry (too),” he said, citing LuLu’s keenness to implement sustainable policies. “Now we are also looking at package groceries, as well as other non-food items.” LuLu, he added, is also launching what it calls the eco-friendly category in all its supermarkets, which will introduce a wide range of biodegradable products. “The other food items that we want to highlight here are those with less than 100 calories. We are now generating a category where anything that you take will be less than 100 calories,” Dr Althaf said, noting that these food products contain less sugar, fat and sodium. About the event, he said LuLu has been partnering with AgriteQ and EnviroteQ since their inception and witnessed the exhibitions’ rapid growth over the years, getting bigger and better. “You will find that LuLu has almost doubled its presence in this (event) and we are very proud to be a partner of this particular initiative,” Dr Althaf said. “We are very happy that this is one of the major events happening after (the coronavirus pandemic) where people could actually meet up with one another. We are very excited to be back.” AgriteQ and EnviroteQ 2022, organised by the Ministry of Municipality and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, concludes tomorrow. The exhibitions have brought together more than 650 local and international entities from the agriculture, environment, food and animal production industries.

Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf at AgriteQ and EnviroteQ 2022. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Legislation sought to boost Qatar’s agri sector

Right legislation plays a key role in boosting Qatar’s agricultural sector – a move that will encourage more people to invest, in addition to further increasing the country’s food production, a prominent agriculturist has said. Speaking on the sidelines of the ninth Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and the third Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ), Agrico managing director Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf underscored the importance of enacting laws that would advance the country’s agricultural industry. Apart from protecting investments, he said right legislation would significantly help enhance the agricultural (vegetable in particular) production in the country. Enacting the right laws, he stressed, also ensures the protection of local produce against imports, preventing some local farms from shutting down. Such a move, al-Khalaf noted, will lead to more developments of local farms – from infrastructure and road connectivity, telecommunication, and sewage management systems, among others. “In comparison and to be equal to the industrial sector, you take the licence first, the government provides you land, electricity, sewage (systems), telecommunication, that’s how it becomes interesting for the investor… money is not the most important part,” he said. Al-Khalaf also highlighted the importance of close cooperation between public and private sectors – not deciding alone by themselves – in addressing issues and challenges in the agricultural industry. He said that listening to each other and taking decisions together would generate right solutions. About modern technology in the sector, al-Khalaf pointed out that it “is a necessity and the key to increase production, reducing the cost of production, and to be more competitive in terms of quality.” “We focused a lot on the hydroponics system but for the past few years I don’t think there is much more to develop in this system, we are satisfied with the results and there is no need to develop more. “We developed the aquaponics system and for the past five years we’ve been studying indoor farming… we are developing at the moment (under construction) around 1,500sqm for indoor farming, for the lettuce, and we are opening the shrimp farm production as well. “We have under construction fish farm production and we have the egg farm production. So we look for different items with different technologies to increase our basket and to increase production,” al-Khalaf said. “We produce all around the year, of course, the winter is easier but summer we continue to produce but it is a little more difficult. We have no seasons, so our production is not stopped.” He expressed confidence that Qatar is ready to export such agricultural technology, saying that they have advanced negotiations with Oman and Kuwait, in addition to other countries with hot climate. “They are interested in our technology”. AgriteQ and EnviroteQ exhibitions, which kicked off on March 10 and will conclude on March 14 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, showcase cutting-edge farming technologies and present the best innovations in the field of sustainable development.

HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani at the Italian pavilion. Supplied picture
Qatar-Italy agricultural, horticultural appliances trade booms

The trade in agricultural and horticultural mechanical appliances between Qatar and Italy increased 28.7% in 2021 compared to 2020, putting Italy third among the suppliers in the category, ambassador Alessandro Prunas has said. “This increase in trade prompted the Machinery Federation (Federunacoma) to participate," he told reporters on the sidelines of the opening of the 9th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and the 3rd Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ) yesterday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Federunacoma is the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Federation, representing enterprises in the field of implements, self-propelled machines, tractors, components, and gardening machinery. Citing the last available data collected by Qatar Customs, Prunas said that the imports from Italy grew approximately 23% compared to 2020 in the floriculture products and live plants category.   The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) – Trade Promotion Office of the Italian embassy is taking part in the event, hosting five companies from Federunacoma at a 120sq m pavillion. All the exhibitors offer cutting-edge solutions in the field of agricultural machinery: * Ageon, specialised in technological greenhouse and soilless crop consulting * Cermac, consortium of Italian manufacturers of machinery, equipment, technologies and accessories for agriculture * Nardi Group, a leading company in agricultural machinery and equipment production * T RTuroni, specialised in production and supply of agri-measurement instruments * Trelleborg Wheels System Italia focuses on the production of wheels, rims and tires for agriculture and machinery. “With our participation to AgriteQ and EnviroteQ 2022, we wanted to provide a compact but high-quality selection of companies that can play a fundamental role in the outstanding development process of Qatar agriculture,” Prunas said. “I am sure that the fair will be another successful opportunity to further tighten the relations between our countries in the field of agriculture, with an eye to sustainability and innovation.” Echoing the ambassador’s statements, Italian Trade Commissioner Augusta Smargiassi underscored the enviable business ties between Qatar and Italy over the years, saying: “In this fast-growing environment, we feel that Italian cutting-edge technologies in the field of agriculture can play an important role in the expansion of this business in Qatar.” According to ITA Doha, Qatar’s agricultural sector continues to grow at a rapid phase based on the latest figures in imports of agricultural equipment and live plants, prompting it to present at AgriteQ and EnviroteQ some of the Italian excellences in the field aimed at enhancing Italy’s contribution to the expansion of Qatar agriculture. The ITA pavilion showcases a wide range of opportunities to explore Italian technology, knowledge and experience in the agricultural sector. ITA Doha also plans to further strengthen its co-operation by inviting local trade operators to attend the main exhibitions and events in Italy in this sector such as the recent My Plant & Garden in Milan, and the upcoming Cibus (Parma, May 3-6) and Macfrut (Rimini, May 4-6).    

HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani inaugurating AgriteQ and EnviroteQ 2022 in the presence of other dignitaries.
PM inaugurates AgriteQ, EnviroteQ 2022

The ninth Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ) and the third Qatar International Environmental Exhibition (EnviroteQ) kicked off on Thursday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, showcasing cutting-edge farming technologies and presenting the best innovations in the field of sustainable development. HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani inaugurated the exhibitions, which have been organised by the Ministry of Municipality and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and run until March 14. HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior visited the pavilions of the two exhibitions and was briefed on the most prominent modern technologies used in the sectors of agriculture, environmental sustainability and food security. He also listened to an explanation about the events accompanying the exhibitions, including local and international seminars and workshops. He was accompanied by a number of ministers, state guests and ambassadors accredited to Qatar. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change public relations director Farhoud Hadi al-Hajri said the latest edition of AgriteQ and EnviroteQ witnessed an increase in the number of countries, companies and other institutions participating - bringing together more than 650 local and international entities from the agriculture, environment, food and animal production industries. From 42 countries in 2021, more than 50 – including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Australia, Albania, Italy, Pakistan, Poland, Tanzania, Cyprus, Kirghizstan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, the Netherlands and India – are taking part in this year’s event, setting up official pavilions through their embassies and commercial offices in Doha. According to the organisers, more than 150 companies in Qatar, which include 60 from the agriculture sector, 50 from food industries, and 25 from the area of environment, as well as a number of companies engaged in livestock and veterinary fields, are participating in the two exhibitions this year. Al-Hajri noted that the event serves as an ideal platform for different countries and companies to present various strategies for advanced and sustainable farming, as well as environmental preservation. He said the participating countries will also present investment opportunities during the discussion and workshops at the event, which also offers sharing of experiences and know-how in these fields. “There will be a lot of researches and their results that will be presented and as a result of that, there will be agreements that will be signed between some of the local research entities and institutes, and their counterparts from different countries,” al-Hajri added. “Another part is the government-to-government relations, which most of it is already existing but we might have some opportunities during this event to expand that field." “In addition, there will be some publishing of some of the works that have been done in the form of studies or books that will also be commissioned during this event,” he said. According to the organisers, the exhibition also features “a specialised business matchmaking platform to help exhibitors and visitors meet key decision-makers from the public and private sectors, through pre-arranged meetings, to discuss potential opportunities and partnerships”. Dr Mohamed Saif al-Kuwari, director of the Environmental and Municipal Studies Institute at the Ministry of Municipality, said the event provides an opportunity to exchange information and knowledge, and discuss new innovations in protecting the environment amid the numerous challenges caused by climate change. “At the end of the day, we collect all the recommendations from the discussions and send it to higher authorities of the ministry,” he said, adding that a committee could be created to study these recommendations if they are useful or beneficial. Dr al-Kuwari highlighted the importance of waste segregation and recycling saying that these kinds of strategies significantly help in proper waste management. He pointed out that apart from adopting modern technologies, raising public awareness and educating the public also play a key role in efforts to fight global warming.      

Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir and LuLu Group International director Dr Mohamed Althaf show some Australian products. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
'Qatar, Australia have huge potential to boost food industry collaboration'

Qatar and Australia have a huge potential to further expand their collaboration in the food industry due to enhanced connectivity between Doha and major Australian cities, LuLu Group International director Dr Mohamed Althaf has said. “There are historical ties between Australia and the Middle East, especially now the airline connectivity to various airports has improved tremendously. We have direct flights from Qatar to almost all the major cities in Australia now, and all the ports are connected also,” he explained on the sidelines of the Australia Week 2022, which concludes Wednesday. The event, organised in co-operation with Austrade – the commercial division of the Australian embassy – aims to promote Australian products in the Qatari market. LuLu Group has been conducting the Australian festival since 2018. “We are importing a lot of things there directly now, there is still scope for adding and setting up a centre in Australia so that we can procure food directly from the farmers, from the producers and Qatar always has a deep cooperation with Australia,” Dr Althaf said. He noted that Qatar has invested in several agricultural companies in Australia, which has a very vibrant academic agriculture and food industry partnership. According to Dr Althaf, the demand for Australian food products in Qatar and in the region due to the high-quality and standards it maintains. “Right from the beginning, Australia was the first country outside the region to have mastered the halal concept. So they have a trustworthy halal certification programme. “It is a very industrial scale they do, anything they do in Australia is done because they produce far more than their domestic requirements so it is a very export-dependent market and export-driven market,” he stressed. LuLu Group, Dr Althaf said, is introducing new Australian products – from fresh produce such as carrots, mangoes, and an array of vegetables to fresh meat (lamb and beef) – in the country every year. Australian ambassador to Qatar Jonathan Muir echoed Dr Althaf’s statement saying that a wide range of Australian products can be found on the menus of Michelin-star restaurants, and in the premium cabins of global airlines – including Qatar Airways. “As citizens and residents of Qatar know better than most – Australia has a reputation for producing some of the best meat in the world,” the envoy said, adding that many Australian companies now specialise in organic products and foods.

Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir at the Australian Week 2022, which concludes Wednesday (March 9). PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Education key part of Qatar-Australia relations: envoy

Co-operation in the field of education remains to be a significant part of the Qatar-Australia bilateral relations, undertaking various projects between academic institutions of the two countries, Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir has said. Speaking to reporters recently, the envoy said Qatar and Australia have done a number of research projects – between Qatar Foundation, Qatar University, and about 23 Australian universities over the past few years. Citing the reopening of Australia’s borders to the world, Muir said that students in Qatar will have the opportunity to study in Australia, which he noted has the 3rd largest number of international students around the world after the US and the UK. “It is important that Qatari students and students in the Qatari community more broadly know that Australia is open for business. Like many countries, we were closed for a long time to new students for a couple of years. Australia is consistently ranked in the top 10 for students around the world,” Muir said. He noted that many students from various countries go to Australia – renowned for its excellent education system – taking up courses like engineering, marketing, and business, among others. Muir said that there are many potential scopes for co-operation between Qatar and Australia in the education field, as well as in trade and investment, and culture. Noting that Australia enjoys a “great trading relationship” with trade volume reaching QR5.5bn in 2021, he pointed out that Aviation services remained Qatar’s top export to Australia, bringing goods not only to the country but also through Europe and the Middle East. Qatar Airways, the envoy pointed out, plays a key role in this co-operation and has been bringing travellers from Qatar and other parts of the world. He urged citizens and residents to visit Australia this summer.    

(From left) Australian ambassador to Qatar Jonathan Muir and LuLu Group International director Dr Mohamed Althaf at the opening of 'Australian Week 2022' at LuLu Abu Sidra recently. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar-Australia trade volume reaches QR5.5bn in 2021: Envoy

Aviation services remained Qatar’s top export to Australia, bringing goods not only to the country, but also through Europe and the Middle East, Australian ambassador to Qatar Jonathan Muir has said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the launch of ‘Australian Week 2022’ at LuLu Abu Sidra recently, the envoy said, “Aviation services, particularly Qatar Airways, is the biggest line and a very important part of the entire economic relationship” between the two countries. “We really value Qatar Airways as a partner across the whole economy, and bringing in tourists now. Australia is open, and summer is coming up,” Muir said, as he encourage residents to visit Australia. He noted that Qatar and Australia enjoy a “great trading relationship” with trade volume reaching QR5.5bn in 2021, stressing that “there is plenty of scope for growth”. “Investment is good as well. We appreciate the fact the Qatar Investment Authority has placed its trust in the Australian market and there is plenty more that we can do there, and Qatar Airways has also invested in property,” Muir said, adding that Hassad food – the original Qatari investor in Australia – is also investing in agriculture. He said that Qatar is Australia’s third-largest market for Australian lamb after China and the US. “So clearly, Qataris have great taste for Australian meat and it is true that we have some of the best in the world, we have some great supply chains, Hassad and LuLu directly imports from Australia. Those supply chains are really important... they are well established. “I am very proud to promote these great Australian products, there’s an appetite for them here, people know Australian quality, it’s fresh, so that is the type of product that we like to market through LuLu,” the envoy added. “Our beef, lamb, seafood truffles, and olive oil – are consistently ranked among the world’s best.” Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, said that LuLu Group is also working to open a LuLu office for sourcing and export distribution in Australia since it imports a lot of products directly from Australia. He cited the huge demand for Australian products in Qatar due to its quality standards and “Australia has a very trustworthy halal certification system.”    

Malaysian ambassador Shamzari Shaharan speaking at the webinar on Monday.
Malaysia, Qatar healthcare collaboration eyed

The Malaysian embassy in Doha sees a huge potential for Qatar and Malaysia to collaborate in the field of healthcare, making high-quality and competitively affordable healthcare services easily accessible. While Qatar continues to provide exceptional healthcare services, Malaysian ambassador Shamzari Shaharan said there is a great opportunity for co-operation between the two countries and “to complement the services in Qatar.” “We have many private healthcare facilities in Malaysia with global recognition and international accreditation from the UK, the US, Australia, and even our homegrown Malaysian experts. Provided in these facilities are all state-of-the-art tech equipment,” said the envoy at a webinar yesterday promoting Malaysia’s healthcare tourism. Titled ‘Introduction to Malaysia Healthcare’ yesterday, the event was hosted by Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) – an agency under the Malaysian Ministry of Heal. It was also participated by Zurich International Life Qatar general manager Greg Loayon, and moderated by BizRep Services director Mohamed Thomas Lim. According to Shaharan, the seamless connectivity between Doha and Kuala Lumpur via Qatar Airways flights plays a key role in delivering excellent healthcare services. While the Covid-19 pandemic had kept many countries closed, he said, Malaysia was the first to reopen its borders in July 2020 for healthcare travellers, but adhering to very strict health and safety protocols. MHTC’s vice president of Marketing Kevin Low echoed Shaharan’s statement saying that Malaysia is a safe and trusted healthcare destination, providing world-class and modern services and facilities, in addition to seamless end-to-end patient experience. He said Malaysia has a well-regulated healthcare system monitored by its Ministry of Health, and patients save 60 to 80% in treatment costs compared to the rates in other countries offering the same services. Malaysia, which hosts 200 private hospitals, (besides dental clinics, and health and wellness centres), where 77 are active players in healthcare travel, is a renowned tourist haven and global halal hub, Low noted. From 643,000 arrivals in 2011, Malaysia witnessed 1.22mn healthcare travel arrivals in 2019 – recording a surge in revenue from $127mn to $362mn during this period. According to MHTC, Malaysia’s medical tourism industry saw a compounded annual growth rate of 16% to 17% in the last five years – well ahead of the global average of 10% to 12% and Asia-Pacific’s 12% to 14%. Malaysia is renowned for its oncology, fertility, cardiology, orthopaedic, and aesthetic treatments, attracting many health travellers from around the world.    

Kenyan ambassador Ahenda receives the affiliation certificate from al-Sayed.
Kenyan Walking Football Club in Doha launched

Kenyan ambassador Paddy C Ahenda, along with International Walking Football Federation (IWFF) Asia and Qatar president Farhan Al Sheikh al-Sayed, led the launching of the Kenyan Walking Football Club in Doha recently at Al Jazeera Academy. The event witnessed Ahenda, al-Sayed, and other embassy officials playing an exhibition match, followed by matches played between teams: IWFFQ Doha, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Ghana. Team Kenya won the finals and bagged the weekly trophy. Al-Sayed, also the senior vice president of IWFF, presented an ‘Affiliation Certificate’ to Ahenda, who heads the African Ambassador's in Qatar. He will be the Patron of the Kenyan Walking Football Club. He stressed that IWFF Qatar has been exerting effort and working hard to promote the sport as it runs awareness programmes in the country on the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle among local and expatriate communities. Al-Sayed noted that Walking Football is one of the fastest growing sports concepts in the world, reiterating that IWFF Asia and Qatar and has been busy affiliating countries across the world to be part of the club. Besides Kenya, he said embassies of Sri Lanka, Morocco, and South Africa have launched their Walking Football teams while community teams from the Philippines, Ghana, Nepal, India, Uganda, and Nigeria will be affiliated this year. Al-Sayed expressed optimism that this sport will soon become popular in many parts of Asia, including the Philippines and its neighbouring countries. This unique sport, he added, also encourages the youth, women, and different age groups, as well as ‘people with disabilities’, to stay fit and active instead of playing online games for long hours. Al-Sayed pointed out that he also wants “to unite all expatriate communities so they can enjoy this new concept of Walking Football and live in harmony and peace under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani”. IWFF Qatar is expected to hold several activities in the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the country, set to be held from November 21 to December 18. Part of Walking Football’s general rules include: no running or jogging with or without the ball, no slide tackles and physical contact, ball must be played below knee height, blue card if a player commits three infringements and must leave the game for two minutes, red card if a player return from the sin bin and commits a further three infringements and no further play in the game (sent off), and a penalty kick is a direct free kick. Al-Sayed said some of the goals of this sport include: keeping former players active and involving new players, enabling social interaction within all communities, avoiding injuries and helping those with physical disadvantage, providing a positive playing environment, and building friendships.    

Gulf Times
Doha Metro adds two new metrolink routes

Doha Metro has added two new metrolink routes to its network for Msheireb/Al Bidda and Al Aziziyah stations from Sunday. In a Tweet by Doha Metro & Lusail Tram page Friday, the M108 route will travel between Al Bidda and Msheireb stations, with pick up and drop off points at various locations such as Ezdan Al Rayyan Towers, Banyan Tree Doha, Square Electronics, Saray Musheireb, Four Points by Sheraton, Al Mana & Partners, and Regency Residences, among others. Marked as M312, this route travels between Al Aziziyah station and Nissan Quick Service, and passes along Hetteen Boys School, Al Andalus School for Boys, Al Hawari Cafeteria, Al Murrah Studio, Footsteps Nursery, Honey Pot Nurser, and Family Medical Polyclinic. Doha Metro will also resume its metrolink service from Ras Bu Fontas station, the M127 route. Via the Al Wakra Road, it will travel between this station and Al Wakra station, passing along the Doha British School, Al Meera, Souq Al Wakra, and Al Wakra Park. Metrolink is a feeder bus network providing first and last-mile connectivity to Qatar Rail customers within a 2 to 5km radius of Doha Metro stations. It is learnt that a large number of commuters in Doha have been benefitting from these Metrolink services, offering free-of-charge and convenient rides between metro stations and their pick up/drop off points. Many residents find these feeder buses/vans practical especially for those who have no private cars and rely on other modes of transportation. While receiving a positive response from several train passengers, residents in other areas in Doha expressed optimism that more routes will be introduced in the near future, giving them easy access to metro services.

(From left) Aljazi taleb al-Henzab, Sabah Rabiah al-Kuwari, and Moza Khalid M M al-Muhannadi at the press conference, held at Ooredoo Tower on Thursday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Ooredoo marathon in Lusail City on March 11

*The ‘virtual run’ – an extension of the Ooredoo Doha Marathon 2022 set from March 5 to 11     The 10th edition of Ooredoo Doha Marathon, which has become a key sporting event in Qatar, is set to take place on March 11 in a new, bigger, and scenic location – Lusail City. “Something is different this year, we are moving the marathon from the Doha Corniche to Lusail. It is a very big destination for us and for Qatar, we want to showcase the iconic places in the country, and it is one of the most popular places now, Ooredoo Qatar public relations director Sabah Rabiah al-Kuwari told reporters at a press conference yesterday. He was joined by Qatar Foundation’s community programme manager Aljazi taleb al-Henzab and Ooredoo Qatar’s CSR, Sponsorship and Media director Moza Khalid M M al-Muhannadi. Al-Kuwari said this annual event encourages people and the community to engage in sports – not only during the National Sport Day – but as part of their daily life. According to him, the Ministry of Public Health has so far approved 2,000 runners to participate in the marathon, in adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols. Some of the best international and local runners are also expected to take part in the marathon, where huge prizes are at stake, he noted. “There will be top runners coming, we have invited many professionals and we are waiting for their response,” al-Kuwari said. He added that the event’s latest edition will witness a new activation, the ‘Marathon Village’, which will open two days prior to the actual race. It will also allow participants to come and take their accreditations, bibs, and shirts. Organisers stressed that Covid-19 restrictions will be strictly implemented at the event, limiting the number of participants and spectators. Runners will be required to present valid vaccination certificates upon registration. According to the organisers, runners can also take part in the ‘virtual run’ – an extension of the Ooredoo Doha Marathon 2022 set from March 5 to 11 – giving them the option to run elsewhere using a special GPS app. “We know that many of our runners will want to join in, but – despite the precautions being taken to ensure safety -- would feel more comfortable running separately to other participants. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Alongside the physical event, we’re also running a virtual Marathon so you can run alone. “You have to run at an outside location (not on a treadmill) and track your run with our special GPS app. “The virtual race may be taking place in the online world, but the experience won't be any less than the real race. We'll be elevating your virtual experience using the Suffix.Tracker app, which has several cool features that will make the race more engaging and fun,” organisers said. “You complete the race anywhere you feel comfortable since it's virtual.” Registration categories are: 1KM for children, 5KM, 10KM, 21KM, and 42KM – adults.    

Event highlights in the 2021 edition
Agritech and Envirotech 2022 exhibition next month

The 9th Qatar International Agricultural and Environmental (Agritech and Envirotech) Exhibition 2022, set to take place from March 10 to 14 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, will put a spotlight on innovation in agricultural techniques, creating a blueprint to attain food security and sustainable development, organisers have said. The latest edition provides an opportunity for industry experts to “explore a wide range of agricultural technologies, equipment and related products, meet key decision-makers, gain valuable insights, and discover the best practices”.   Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf “Agritech and is a gate to the horticulture companies to introduce their technologies to the private sector and consumers, and it has become the lead horticulture event in Qatar and the region,” prominent Qatari agriculturist and Agrico managing director Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told Gulf Times. As one of the participating companies, he said they will be focusing on greenhouse technology, corps management system, corps irrigation, and fertigation system, indoor farming, hydroponic growing system, aquaponic growing system, mushroom production, fish farming, shrimp farming, agriculture materials, and organic waste management system. Exhibitors are also expected to showcase and promote an array of technologies and innovations on soil cultivation, irrigation systems, plant protection, and dairy production, among others. Under Envirotech, a wide range of products/equipment, services, and systems will be highlighted, including recycling, alternative energy systems, waste management, water treatment, waste-to-energy, and many more. Organisers noted that “the increase in adoption of advanced farming technologies and conducive government policies supporting domestic crop production is one of the factors driving the market growth in the country.” Al-Khalaf reiterated that such an exhibition, which “has been at the forefront in providing a full-fledged platform for local and international agriculture stakeholders to exchange expertise,” plays a key role in Qatar's efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in food. The four-day exhibition will feature government sessions, talks panel discussions, and other sessions that will tackle initiatives and opportunities in Qatar, industry concerns, climate change and ways to preserve the environment, and ‘supporting and showcasing research and scientific studies. According to the organisers, “protecting the environment and supporting sustainable development are at the forefront of Qatar’s priorities. As one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1996, Qatar has a longstanding commitment to addressing global environmental challenges. Qatar is an active partner in the international community to confront the climate crisis.” The 2021 edition of the exhibition witnessed more than 300 exhibitors from 42 countries participating. Besides attracting more than 8,500 local and international visitors, it also saw a 28% increase in the number of participants from various countries and 61% locally. Organisers said the exhibition “will feature a specialised business matchmaking platform to help exhibitors and visitors meet key decision-makers from the public and private sectors, through pre-arranged meetings, to discuss potential opportunities and partnerships”.

Ambassador Satoshi Maeda
Japan looking into relaxing border restrictions for tourists

As the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in Japan continues to drop, the easing of border restrictions for foreign visitors – including those from Qatar – is now being reviewed by the authorities, Japanese ambassador Satoshi Maeda has said. “Although it’s still unclear due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant, the increase in the number of coronavirus infections in Japan has now subsided and border measures are being reviewed in the direction of relaxation,” the envoy explained at a recent press briefing in Doha. Maeda noted that they have been receiving inquiries from Qataris regarding travel to Japan, “so the embassy will continue to work with them”. With daily direct flights between Doha and Tokyo, it is learnt that the number of visitors from Qatar to Japan had been increasing in previous years, but was stalled by the pandemic. In the pre-pandemic era, Japan was a favourite leisure destination for citizens and residents of Qatar due to its variety of tourism offerings. Besides Tokyo, a huge number of travellers also visit cultural capital Kyoto – a famous spot for gardens, imperial palaces, and temples, among other attractions. The envoy said that Japan is looking forward to welcoming visitors from Qatar “when the corona situation settles down and the issuance of tourist visas resumes”. “We will continue to promote the charms of Japan with an eye to expanding exchanges with Qataris after the situations related to corona are better,” added Maeda, who recently led Japan’s National Day celebration on February 21, which also marked the 62nd birthday of the emperor of Japan in Doha at Marsa Malaz Kempinski.    

FBQ Museum director Claudio Cravero .
QM plan to make Qatar outdoor art museum hailed as 'outstanding'

Qatar Museums’ (QM) plans to transform the nation’s landscape into a vast outdoor art museum experience “is an outstanding idea how to shorten the distance between people and art,” Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani (FBQ) Museum director Claudio Cravero has said. “Since by definition public art is made available and accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, it works as an awareness-starter regarding the importance of art and culture in everyone’s life,” Museum director Claudio Cravero told Gulf Times. Led by its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, QM’s initiative will add more than 40 public artworks by renowned Qatari, regional and international artists this year to mark Qatar's hosting of FIFA World Cup 2022. According to QM, new and commissioned installations will be set up in different locations in Qatar such as public parks, shopping areas, educational and athletic facilities, Hamad International Airport (HIA), and Qatar Rail stations, in addition to a number of stadiums that will host the football matches. “The public art initiative supported by HE Sheikha Al Mayassa will span over 100 works of art in the public space. It has so far resulted successful with masterpieces at everyone’s doorstep. “From Richard Serra to Damien Hirst, Qatar’s landscape has been enriched exponentially over the last few years. However, the educational foundations behind public art commissioning go behind the mere embellishment of the public space, because when art is set outside the gallery display, it acts as a bridge to shorten the distance between people and the museums,” Cravero said. Some of the prominent works in Qatar, QM noted, include Serra’s 'East/West-West/East' in Zekreet, Hirst’s 'The Miraculous Journey' at Sidra Medicine, Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’ at the Qatar National Convention Centre, Ahmed al-Bahrani’s 'Flag of Glory' at the National Museum of Qatar, Ghada al-Khater’s 'A Blessing in Disguise' at the Doha Fire Station, Urs Fischer’s 'Untitled (Lamp/Bear)' at HIA, Subodh Gupta’s 'Gandhi’s Three Monkeys' at Katara – the Cultural Village, Saloua Raouda Choucair’s ‘Bench’ at the Museum of Islamic Art Park, and Dia al-Azzawi’s 'Flying Man' by HIA, among others. Recent installation includes American artist Mark Handforth’s ‘Turquoise City’ last year at Msheireb Downtown Doha, which forms part of the Qatar–USA 2021 Year of Culture. QM also launched many initiatives as part of its public art programme such as 5/6, Jedariart, and student competition, among others, aimed at “enriching daily life and encouraging the community to reflect on social, historical and cultural issues”. Cravero said that while FBQ Museum doesn’t include pieces of public art yet, they are planning outdoor activities around Al Samriya estate, “where art will become the centrepiece of public’s experience”.    

Japan is keen to explore various areas of co-operation with Qatar, especially in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, aimed at further strengthening the bilateral relations, Japanese ambassador Satoshi Maeda has said.
Japan keen to explore AI, robotics collaboration with Qatar

Japan is keen to explore various areas of co-operation with Qatar, especially in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, aimed at further strengthening the bilateral relations, Japanese ambassador Satoshi Maeda has said. “As the AI robot market is expected to grow, Japan's current interest in AI and robotics is high and its research and progress is remarkable. For example, there is a high level of interest in this field, including the use of robots in the medical field and the use of collaborative robots to improve industrial logistics. “It would be great if we could explore possible areas of cooperation with Qatar in the future,” the envoy told a recent briefing at his residence in Doha. According to Maeda, collaboration in AI and robotics could create numerous opportunities between Qatar and Japan due to their strong interest in science and technology. “These areas have huge potential but we need to talk more about specific projects and how we cooperate and invest, that is very important,” he added. However, the envoy pointed out that the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic since its onslaught in March 2020 hindered many activities and other engagements. He expressed optimism that there will be more opportunities “to get together” between the two countries as the situation continues to improve. Maeda also sees Qatar and Japan cooperating in several other fields, including culture and arts, sports, and in the diplomatic arena – working together to achieve shared values and goals for the international community. In the area of culture and the arts, he said a large-scale cultural event took place on February 4 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Japan. The embassy plans to hold the 13th Qatar Japanese Language Speech Contest in March, originally scheduled in January but was postponed due to the spread of the new variant of Covid-19. “In addition, we are currently working with Qatar Museums to plan a number of other cultural events for this year's 50th anniversary which will be announced soon,” Maeda said. About the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, he said this tournament is one of the most popular sporting events not only in Japan but also in the world, “so we expect many soccer fans, including dignitaries, to come from Japan to watch the games.”