4000 cows to be flown to Qatar to ensure fresh milk supply
Gulf Times, Qatar
Cows Cows stand at the Loewith dairy farm in Lynden, Ontario on Tuesday July 16, 2013
Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
*The biggest bovine airlift in history
* Fresh milk production will start by the end of the month and will eventually cover a third of Qatar’s demand by mid-July
* 4,000 cows arriving on 60 flights
* Cost of shipping the animals amounts to $8mn
The rift between Qatar and its neighbours has prompted one Qatari businessman to fly 4,000 cows to the Gulf country in an act of resistance and opportunity to fill the void left by a collapse in the supply of fresh milk.
It will take as many as 60 flights for Qatar Airways to deliver the 590kg beasts that Moutaz al-Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, bought in Australia and the US. “This is the time to work for Qatar,” he said.
The blockade that started on June 5 has forced Qatar to open new trade routes to import food, building materials and equipment for its industry. The central bank said domestic and international transactions were running normally.
Turkish dairy goods have been flown in, and Iranian fruits and vegetables have also arrived. There’s also a campaign to buy home-grown produce. Signs with colours of the Qatari flag have been placed next to dairy products in stores. One sign said, “Together for the support of local products.”
“It’s a message of defiance, that we don’t need others,” said Umm Issa, 40, a government employee perusing the shelves of a supermarket before taking a carton of Turkish milk to try. “Our government has made sure we have no shortages and we are grateful for that. We have no fear.”
Most of the fresh milk and dairy products for Doha’s population came from Saudi Arabia up until a week ago. That supply is affected after the kingdom and some other countries cut transport links with Qatar.
Al-Khayyat, whose main business is a construction firm, had been expanding the company’s agricultural business at a farm 50km north of Doha. Food security is part of Qatar’s government strategy to steer the economy away from petrodollars, known, like in Saudi Arabia, as ‘Vision 2030’.
On a site covering the equivalent of almost 70 soccer fields, new grey sheds line two strips of verdant grass in the desert with a road running through the middle up to a small mosque. It produces sheep milk and meat and there were already plans to import the cows by sea. Then the blockade started, so the project was expedited.
Fresh milk production will now start by the end of the month rather than September and will eventually cover a third of Qatar’s demand by mid-July, al-Khayyat said at his office in Doha. Facilities for the Holstein cows are ready, though the company will take a hit on the shipping cost for the animals, which increased more than five times to $8mn.
“No one in his daily life feels a crisis,” al-Khayyat said. “The government is working very hard to ensure there’s no effect.”
Qatar denounces ‘unfair’, ‘illegal’ sanctions
“Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security,” HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said.
Qatar on Monday denounced the sanctions imposed against Doha by Saudi Arabia and its allies as “unfair” and “illegal”, as Britain announced talks to try to resolve the crisis.
“Whatever relates to our foreign affairs… no one has the right to discuss,” HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters during a visit to Paris.
HE the Foreign Minister called for “dialogue based on clear foundations” over accusations that Qatar supports extremist groups.
“Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among several countries which last week announced the suspension of all ties to Qatar over what they say is the state’s support for extremist groups and its political proximity to Iran.
Qatar denies the allegations.
In London, British foreign minister Boris Johnson said he would meet this week with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, and called for calm.
“I have urged all sides to refrain from any further escalation and to engage in mediation efforts,” he said.
While praising Qatar’s restraint during the crisis, he added: “In finding a resolution, I call on Qatar to take seriously their neighbours’ concerns.
“Qatar is a partner of the UK in the fight against terrorism but they urgently need to do more to address support for extremist groups, building on the steps they have already taken to tackle funding to those groups.”
Kuwaiti mediation welcomed
In Paris, Sheikh Mohammed, who is on a European tour to drum up support for Qatar, said his country had no idea what had provoked the move against it.
“It’s not about Iran or Al-Jazeera,” he said, referring to the Qatar-based broadcaster. “We have no clue about the real reasons.”
But he supported moves by Kuwait to act as a mediator in the dispute “with the help of friendly countries such as the United States,” he added.
In Doha, Qatar Airways called on the UN’s aviation body to declare the Gulf boycott against the carrier “illegal” and a violation of a 1944 convention on international air transport.
In televised interviews on Monday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker called the move an “illegal blockade” and urged the United Nations’ civil aviation branch to intervene.
Qatar announced Monday that it had launched direct shipping services to ports in Oman in a bid to bypass the Gulf “blockade”.
Sanctions will not harm Qatari economy: al-Emadi
Qatar can easily defend its economy and currency against sanctions by other Arab states, HE the Minister of Finance Ali Sherif al-Emadi told CNBC television in an interview broadcast on Monday.
He said that the countries that had imposed sanctions on Qatar would also lose money because of the damage to business in the region.
“A lot of people think we’re the only ones to lose in this … If we’re going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also,” al-Emadi was quoted by aljazeera.com.
The sanctions have disrupted flows of imports and other materials into Qatar and caused many foreign banks to scale back their business with the country.
But al-Emadi said the energy sector and economy of the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter were essentially operating as normal and that there had not been a serious impact on bank operations and supplies of food or other goods.
“We are business as usual, and we are open for business,” he said.
“We know that we might have one or two challenges here and there, but this is a country that is very resilient. We have the assets and security that we need.”
Qatar can import goods from the Far East or Europe and it will respond to the crisis by diversifying its economy even more, he told CNBC.
The Qatari riyal has come under pressure in the spot and forward foreign exchange markets, but al-Emadi said neither this nor a drop in the local stock market was cause for concern.
“Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250% of gross domestic product, so I don’t think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what’s happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal.”
Asked whether Qatar might need to raise money by selling off stakes in large Western companies held by its sovereign wealth fund, al-Emadi indicated this was not on the cards at present.
“We are extremely comfortable with our positions, our investments and liquidity in our systems,” he said.
Prices of Qatar’s international bonds have dropped sharply, but in answer to another question, al-Emadi said he saw no need for the government to step into the market and buy those bonds to support prices.
“There was reaction on the market [in the aftermath of the June 5 announcements] which was understandable,” al-Emadi said.
“If you take action of this magnitude, that’s normal. We’ve seen a rebound coming back,” al-Emadi was quoted as saying (by aljazeera.com)