Emerging Markets / June 7, 2017

Qatar and the Importance of Domestic Agriculture

Over the last week, several nations from the six-member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) around the Persian Gulf cut political and economic relations with their neighbor, the State of Qatar. The sudden isolation of the Qatari monarchy highlights the vulnerability of the peninsula nation and the importance of having a domestic agricultural industry. This article explores the status of the economy and agriculture in Qatar.

Qatar and the Importance of Domestic Agriculture

Qatar is a small and rich nation in the Middle East, with plentiful energy resources and fossil fuel reserves. Furthermore, the country is scheduled to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. With a total territory of less than 12.000 square kilometers, Qatar is somewhat smaller than Connecticut. Geographically, the country is mainly arid desert with a mostly warm climate. Bordering Saudi Arabia by land, Qatar has little over 560 kilometers of coastline along the Persian Gulf. The state has a total population of approximately 2.3 million citizens, about 99% of which live in an urban setting, notably the capital city of Doha with some 720.000 inhabitants. Currently, national annual gross domestic product (GDP) is approximately US$320 billion and the country has experienced positive economic growth upwards of 2.5% in recent years. The Qatari economy is divided into less than 1% agriculture, 51% manufacturing, and 48% services. Similarly, the agriculture industry only utilizes about 6% of the national territory. Therefore, Qatar must technically import the totality of the food and agricultural products that it consumes.

In terms of natural resources, Qatar has petroleum, natural gas, and fish. Within manufacturing, the national industry is focused on liquefied natural gas processing, crude oil production & refining, ammonia, fertilizers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars, cement, and commercial ship repair. Meanwhile, the country’s small agricultural industry has as main products fruits, vegetables, poultry, dairy products, beef, and fish. In terms of trade, Qatar enjoyed an overall trade surplus of over US$45 billion in 2015. However, that same year, the country’s main commodity products, petroleum and natural gas, accounted for 86% or US$68.4 billion of the national exports. Meanwhile, the country’s main imports are machinery, heavy equipment, transportation vehicles, and foodstuffs, which together account for more than half of Qatar’s international purchases. Lastly, Qatar’s main trading partners are China, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United States, and the European Union, amongst others.

Simultaneously, land distribution and output Qatar has evolved throughout the last several decades. Back in 1961, permanent pastures and meadows in the country covered 50.000 hectares, while arable land covered 1.000 hectares. More recently, by 2014, permanent pastures and meadows still covered 50.000 hectares, while arable land represented little over 13.000 hectares and permanent crops accounted for 2.500 hectares. Similarly, in 1984, the country allocated almost 350 hectares to cereals production and the annual output was of more than 1.100 metric tons. Finally, in 2014, Qatar devoted some 243 hectares of land to cereals production and yielded approximately 905 metric tons.

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