Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries Profile
Agriculture, livestock production and fish production are strategic sectors in Qatar because of their critical role in the nation's food security. Qatar imports over 90% of its food requirements and in 2008 the agricultural trade deficit in 2008 amounted to QR 4.38 billion, or US $1.2 billion.
The Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) is a national taskforce compromised of 17 different entities from the government and the private sector. The taskforce includes, amongst others, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Supreme Council of Health, Hassad Foods, and Kahramaa. Each taskforce entity serves a unique function that affects the overall ability of the QNFSP to realize its mission to explore ways of improving and changing current practices, and initiating the adoption of new technologies and farming techniques to increase crop yields.
The Ministry of the Environment oversees a number of departments that provide assistance to the sectors such as the dissemination of information and training to private farmers on improved agricultural methods, and the support of projects including providing required seedlings, saplings, and pesticides to over 2,100 private farms in Qatar, developing the recharge of the groundwater aquifer in Qatar, and researching the establishment of an artificial reef off the coast of Qatar.
According to the QSFP, in 2008 Qatar had 23,903 hectares of arable land but only 12,274 hectares (or roughly 51%) of this arable land was actually under cultivation. The average size of productive farms in Qatar was 27 hectares, and on average only about eight hectares was used for crop production, with roughly equal areas devoted to fruit trees, vegetables, and fodder crops. Barley was the most frequently grown cereal crop, but cereals occupy less than one hectare on a typical farm.
There are a number of difficulties faced by farmers in Qatar. The most obvious is insufficient water due to traditional irrigation methods such as flood irrigation being used. Lack of expert manpower, lack of seasonal employment at appropriate times, and the use of the fallow system are all contributing factors to large proportions of land within the farms being kept out of cultivation.
Livestock, including sheep, goats, cattle, camel, and poultry, are an important component of food consumption in Qatar. The main constraints to livestock production are Qatar's limited land and water resources as well as climatic conditions. By the end of 2007, Qatar supplied less than 4% of its cattle, 7% of its sheep, 8% of its poultry and 6% of its fresh liquid milk from domestic sources. The QNFSP is looking at developing a comprehensive plan for livestock development to 2040. This comprises technological, institutional and policy options towards integrating domestic feed production, feed imports from neighbouring countries, and development of modern feed lots. By developing the animal husbandry sector, meat imports can be reduced, with hydroponics being a worthwhile solution to expanding fodder production to feed the growing animal population.
The marine fishery sector in Qatar has grown in the last decade. Fish self-sufficiency in Qatar is estimated at 96% and the average annual fish consumption is about 12 Kg per capita, roughly the same as the world average. Future prospects for fisheries may be limited by more intensive upstream fishing, as well as potential impacts of climate change on marine life in the Gulf region. Hence, the QNFSP is planning for environmentally and economically sustainable options for integrated marine and aquaculture fisheries.
Qatar Development Bank (QDB) Financing Support
QDB provide project funding support to the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors.
- Agriculture and Livestock
QDB define agricultural activities as “the growing of crops and preparation for local markets” and provide loans of up toQR 1million per farm. Annual interest is charged at 1% with a one-off processing fee of 0.5% paid up-front. The loan period is up to 8 years including a grace period of 6 months in which no payments are due Applicants for funding must hold a Farm Position card from the Ministry of the Environment, a land lease/ownership deed and must be a Qatari national aged 21 or over. Lending is not provided to companies.
QDB also provides loans for farming, renting or purchase of animals for sale and consumption. Applicants must hold a certificate of land ownership or a rental agreement to lease land and be a Qatari national aged 21 or over.
QDB’s fisheries loans are exclusively for the purchase of a boat engine and fishing equipment. The loan for one boat and its equipment can be up to a total QR 250,000 with a limit of QR 100,000 for equipment and QR 150,000 for the engine. Customers are limited to a maximum number of loans of three. Annual interest is charged at 1% with a one-off processing fee of 0.5% paid up-front. The loan period is up to 5 years including a grace period of 2 months in which no payments are due. Applicants for funding must hold a Boats Fishing Licence card, a certificate of registration of ships and must be a Qatari national aged 21 or over. Lending is not provided to companies.