The market share of Qatari fresh produce has increased significantly during the current winter season compared to last year, a prominent Qatari agriculturist has said.
“If last year the local production was about 10% of the consumption, this year it could be 15% to 20% until now, but this could increase as we are still in the season,” noted Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf, owner and managing director of Agrico, a private Qatari agricultural development company.
Agrico, established in 2011 with the aim of helping the country achieve food security, operates a 120,000sqm (12 hectare) organic farm in Al Khor.
The company recently built an additional 120,000sqm of “seasonal greenhouses” to grow more fresh vegetables this season, in addition to its 120,000sqm facility, which operates year-round.
Al-Khalaf estimates that Qatar imports around 80% of fresh vegetables and fruits from various countries, including those from other parts of the region, Europe and Africa.
“The increase (in market share) is substantial in a short period,” he stressed, adding that several local farms have also been producing more to help Qatar achieve self-sufficiency.
Due to the unjust blockade on Qatar by the Saudi-led bloc, al-Khalaf stressed that most of the farm owners are continuously expanding their cultivation area and growing more varieties of vegetables.
From 25 “active farms” in Qatar, he expects the number to reach 50 or more during this period.
He cited the full support of various government agencies to local farms, particularly the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, as well as the Qatar Development Bank.
It is learnt that a large number of residents have been patronising locally-produced vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplants, cucumbers, and broccoli, among others.
Many shoppers throng the Mahaseel Souq from Thursday to Saturday at the southern area of Katara – the Cultural Village to buy vegetables for their daily consumption at reasonable prices.
Participating local farms and national companies in the food production sector showcase various fresh produce and dairy products in this event, which will conclude by the end of March.
Al-Khalaf noted that many local farms which did not make it to the Mahaseel are also producing more this winter compared to their previous output in the same period last year.
With the increasing demand for local fresh produce, he said Agrico is planning to slowly convert its “seasonal greenhouses” into a year-round production area.
Agrico produces a variety of high-quality mushrooms. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
He also expressed optimism that Qatar can achieve self-sufficiency in the next few years, citing the efforts exerted by every sector.
“Everybody is working together today to support the cause” al-Khalaf stressed, noting that more local farms are going towards organic production.
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