Tiny Qatar liv­ing large; boy­cott-bust­ing bovines ar­rive

Boy­cott-bust­ing bovines be­gin ar­riv­ing

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

DOHA: It’s been more than a month since four Arab na­tions cut land, sea and air routes to Qatar, but in the gas-rich Gulf na­tion’s glim­mer­ing malls and lux­ury ho­tels there is lit­tle sign of hard­ship. High-end cloth­ing stores hawk the lat­est sum­mer trends. Grocery stores are brim­ming with meats and cheeses from Eu­rope and Turkey, and just last month the coun­try’s main port re­ceived 4,300 cars and sheep from Aus­tralia.

Lux­ury ho­tels like the W and St. Regis serve lav­ish meals around the clock and al­co­hol flows for vis­i­tors. Fa­mous Barcelona soc­cer play­ers Ger­ard Pique, Ser­gio Bus­quets and Jordi Alba met with fans last week at a mall in the cap­i­tal, Doha, which will host the 2022 World Cup tour­na­ment. “We don’t feel any dif­fer­ence. It’s a cel­e­bra­tion ev­ery­where,” Qatari Badr Jeran said as he shopped at the mall.

Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt moved to iso­late Qatar in early June, sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties and clos­ing off their air space and ship­ping lanes over Doha’s sup­port for Is­lamist groups across the re­gion, many of which are viewed as ter­ror groups by its ri­vals. Qatar de­nies sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism and has con­demned the clo­sures as an at­tack on its sovereignty.

Wor­ried res­i­dents rushed to grocery stores, emp­ty­ing shelves of dairy prod­ucts and other food im­ports after Saudi Ara­bia sealed Qatar’s only land bor­der, but they were quickly re­stocked. If the Arab na­tions in­tended to bring about a change in gov­ern­ment, those hopes ap­pear to have been dashed by an out­pour­ing of pop­u­lar sup­port for Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani, the 37 -year-old emir. Signs on cars and bill­boards read “We are all Tamim. We are all Qatar”. Here’s a look at how Qatar has weath­ered the cri­sis:

Money - lots of it

Shortly after the cri­sis be­gan, a Twit­ter ac­count called Do­haUn­derSiege be­gan doc­u­ment­ing life un­der the block­ade. One post showed a fully stocked ho­tel buf­fet and said: “Bread­lines have be­gun. Per­son­ally saw sev­eral mid­dle-aged men at break­fast scuf­fling over the last baguette.” The tongue-in-cheek posts point to the fact that Qatar is fan­tas­ti­cally wealthy. It is one of the world’s rich­est na­tions per capita, mak­ing its cit­i­zens on av­er­age wealth­ier than even those in neigh­bor­ing Gulf states. Qatar has a pop­u­la­tion of around 2 mil­lion, but only a lit­tle more than a quar­ter-mil­lion are cit­i­zens, mean­ing the gov­ern­ment has a lot of wealth it can spread around. Qatar has some $340 bil­lion in reserves.

Qatar’s main source of rev­enue is its nat­u­ral gas, which con­tin­ues to flow un­in­ter­rupted. It is the world’s largest liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas pro­ducer, which it ships on tankers around the world. An un­der­sea pipe­line pro­vides gas to Oman and the UAE, which heav­ily re­lies on Qatar’s gas de­spite sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties.

The cri­sis has ac­tu­ally served as a “a good sort of trial run” for the Qataris to de­ter­mine how to man­age their econ­omy in the face of such an event, said Noha Abouel­da­hab, a vis­it­ing fel­low at the Brook­ings Doha Cen­ter think tank.

Help from friends

Qatar’s ally Turkey and its neigh­bor Iran have quickly stepped in to fill any gaps, as has Morocco. In­stead of car­ry­ing the Saudi Al­marai dairy brand, the shelves are now stocked with milk and pro­duce from Turkey. One of the reasons cited for the Arab na­tions’ de­ci­sion to cut ties was Qatar’s re­la­tions with Iran, with which it shares a mas­sive un­der­sea nat­u­ral gas field. But here too, the block­ade seems to have had the op­po­site ef­fect. Iran’s kept its airspace open, al­low­ing Qatar Air­ways and other air­lines to cir­cum­vent the clo­sures. Past in­vest­ments in desert agri­cul­ture have also helped head off any food cri­sis.

New routes

Since the Arab quar­tet’s June 5 block­ade was an­nounced, Qatar has launched five new ship­ping routes - two to Oman, two to In­dia and one to Turkey. Doha’s brand-new Ha­mad Port, south of the Qatari cap­i­tal, is op­er­at­ing at “full ca­pac­ity,” says the port’s di­rec­tor, Ab­de­laziz Nasser Al-Yafei. The fa­cil­ity, part of a $7.4 bil­lion port in­fra­struc­ture project, only be­gan gen­eral cargo oper­a­tions in Oc­to­ber, and was fully up and run­ning in early De­cem­ber.

Bovines ar­rive in Qatar

Mean­while, a first herd of boy­cott-bust­ing cows has been air­lifted to Qatar to boost milk sup­plies five weeks after neigh­bor­ing Gulf states cut links with the emi­rate. The sev­eral dozen Hol­steins were flown in from Bu­dapest, the first of 4,000 cat­tle to be im­ported by Au­gust. The be­mused bovines took to their new sur­round­ings at a farm 80 kilo­me­ters north of Doha, de­spite be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion from jour­nal­ists and the pride of Qatar, which sees their ar­rival as a sign of its de­fi­ance in the Gulf cri­sis. “We brought in 165 Hol­steins, all highly bred Hol­steins, espe­cially for dairy,” said John Dore, a se­nior man­ager at Bal­adna Live­stock Pro­duc­tion. “There are 35 milk­ing cows, that are in milk at present and there’s 130 that will calve in the next two-to-three weeks.”

Prior to the cur­rent cri­sis, Qatar largely re­lied on dairy im­ports from Saudi Ara­bia, espe­cially of milk. The cat­tle will be farmed for both milk and meat. “Lo­cal sup­ply cov­ers be­tween 10 and 15 per cent at present” of Qatar’s needs, added Dore, speak­ing to re­porters at the farm. “Be­fore, most of the milk in Qatar was im­ported from Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE. “At the mo­ment the gap is be­ing filled by Turk­ish im­ports, which are wel­come for the present but the qual­ity won’t com­pare with lo­cal pro­duce.” The cows were brought in by a Qatar Air­ways cargo plane on Tues­day. Moutaz Al-Khayyat, the chair­man of Qatari firm Power In­ter­na­tional which bought and im­ported the cows, told Bloomberg News that once all the 4,000 cows ar­rive in Qatar, they will meet around 30 per­cent of the coun­try’s dairy needs. — Agen­cies

DOHA: In this Sun­day, July 9, 2017 file photo, men wait for a bus in front of a build­ing with the poster of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani. — AP

AL KHOR: A hand­out photo made avail­able by the Qatar News Agency (QNA) yes­ter­day shows a herd of cows ar­riv­ing from Bu­dapest at the Bal­adna live­stock pro­duc­tion farm in the city of Al-Khor, north­east of Qatar. — AFP

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