Qatar’s self-sufficiency drive extends beyond food and fits with the country’s long-standing drive for diversification and private-sector development, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has said in a report.
Existing plans to expand the range of sectors in which 100% foreign investment is permitted and to develop special economic and logistical zones are being accelerated, EIU said in a country report.
These and other reforms, such as those relating to expatriate worker residency, are intended to catalyse the local economy and to encourage projects that support self-sufficiency, it said.
In April this year, the first Qatar Self-Sufficiency Exhibition was organised, with some 120 companies represented. That followed the ‘Made in Qatar exhibition’ in December 2017, organised by Qatar Chamber, with around 320 companies represented.
“One priority area for greater manufacturing self-sufficiency is building materials, with scope to increase the downstream value-add from Qatar's existing metal and plastics production. As yet, there do not appear to be many sizable new projects in these areas, but this is likely to become a growing focus once the more immediate food-security goals are met.
“Overall, the drive for self-sufficiency should support non-oil economic growth, particularly in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, and should reduce imports over time, further boosting the current-account surplus,” EIU noted.
Following the blockade on Qatar since June 2017, Qatar has been encouraging local and international firms to invest in production facilities to boost its self-sufficiency in food and other commodities.
According to EIU, the “most visible developments” are in the dairy sector, new projects in which will contribute to economic growth.
There has been a "considerable interest" in food security in Qatar (and the wider Gulf region), particularly since 2008, when a spike in global food prices and export restrictions in some countries raised concerns. This led to international investments in agricultural land and companies by a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority.
Besides local investments in the dairy sector (following the blockade), EIU said there have also been "expansions in other areas" of food production, such as poultry and offshore fish and shrimp farming.
The government had earlier said that Qatar was targeting 100% self-sufficiency in fresh meat and 20% in frozen meat by the end of 2018. The National Development Strategy 2018?22, launched in March, targeted 65% self-sufficiency in fish production.
The production of fresh vegetables from climate-controlled drip-irrigation facilities was already on the rise prior to the blockade, but has also been stepped up through public land grants to large farming projects, with a goal of 70% self-sufficiency in fresh vegetables within two years, EIU said.