By K T Chacko
HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced the creation of the Qatar National Food Security Programme at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome yesterday
HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced the creation of the Qatar National Food Security Programme with the main objective of increasing domestic production by tapping advanced technology, at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome yesterday.
Addressing the summit, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the Emir highlighted the importance of national food security and said the programme aimed to reduce Qatar’s reliance on food imports through the realisation of the principle of self-sufficiency.
“In association with international organisations, the programme will develop best practices for optimal use of resources in the agricultural sector,” the Emir said.
A spokesperson of Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) said the initiative was launched as a response to the challenges inherent in Qatar’s climate and geography and “it demands strategic planning, research, and technological development because of limited domestic agricultural production and scarce fresh water resources”.
According to QNFSP chairman Fahad al-Attiyah, the mandate of the programme is to significantly improve the availability and stability of Qatar’s food supplies, and in doing so develop solutions which can be shared with nations facing similar intrinsic challenges.
“We will encourage the development of new technology, including the integration of solar-power, public policy, research and innovation in agri-production, using a widearray of private and public sector partnerships.”
The QNFSP has established a taskforce of 14 member organisations, consisting of various ministries and other government entities, each selected for its specific areas of expertise.
“One particular emphasis for the QNFSP will be on supporting arid land agriculture research and similar unique issues that exist in Qatar and other arid regions,” the spokesperson said.
“In Qatar, 90% of the food is imported. Only one third of the arable land occupied by farms is being cultivated. Levels of agricultural production have largely been limited because of water scarcity and depletion, poor soil quality, as well as anunfavourable climate for farming.
“Aquifers are under threat of depletion… and the country’s strategic water reserve is just 1.8 days,” the spokesperson added.
The QNFSP was created in response to a directive issued in November 2008 by HH the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.Meanwhile, the government is planning to launch an initial public offering for the shares of Hassad Food, the strategic food investment arm of Qatar Investment Authority, in order to list it on the local bourse, according to Doha-based Al Arab daily.