Qatar moves from football to farming in post-pandemic food security push

Sunbd Desk || Published: 2021-05-05 15:46:25 || Updated: 2021-05-05 15:46:25

Qatar’s Baladna plans to grow crops in Bulgaria and Romania as the Gulf state boosts its food security in the wake of a pandemic that has exposed the fragility of the global supply chain.

The Doha-listed company also plans to add 1,000 hectares of farm land to grow green crops as it expands its product line ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

Baladna managing director Ramez Al-Khayyat told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday it planned to add 50 more products this year to boost its domestic market while also expanding overseas.

“Today we are exporting to 11 countries from five countries last year,” he said. “In Romania and Bulgaria where we are targeting some backward integration in order to grow our crops there.”

Baladna has expanded rapidly in recent years as a rift between Qatar and some of its Gulf neighbors demanded an increase in domestic production of essential products and basic foods. However the recent thaw in regional relations has increased competition in Qatar’s food sector which is expected to grow rapidly ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup which may see an influx of more than a million football fans to the country.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of regional food supply lines and has encouraged Gulf economies to develop their domestic food industries, triggering a slew of investments across the sector.

Abu Dhabi’s ADQ recently bought a 50 percent stake in Al Dahra while the Abu Dhabi Investment Office also invested $100 million in four agritech companies to build facilities in the emirate including vertical farms. Saudi Arabia’s Salic, a food company owned by the Public Investment Fund has also acquired a 30 percent stake in Indian group Daawat Foods, to boost its rice supplies.

A report from the Global Network Against Food Crises released Wednesday said that nearly nearly 20 million more people faced food crises last year amid conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and weather extremes.

The humanitarian agency warned that acute food insecurity continues to worsen.

“We must do everything we can to end this vicious cycle,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

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