Posted on July 05, 2017
Concerted efforts are being made by the government, importers and retailers to ensure the smooth supply and availability of food products in the local market. Steps are also being taken to keep prices under check and prevent manipulation by sellers, it is found.
 
The launch of shipping lines and the continued arrival of cargo vessels have helped streamline the import of foodstuff and ensure adequate supplies after some neighbouring GCC countries imposed a blockade on Qatar, according to sources. Further improvements in the supply process are likely in the coming days, which wholesalers and importers of foodstuff believe will allow sellers to offer different food items at competitive prices. Sounding confident, representatives of some of the prominent foodstuffs importers said they were working out “more effective strategies” and looking to finalise new sources of procurement.
 
A manager at an import firm said the prices of some products, including certain types of fruits and vegetables brought from abroad, had seen a “slight increase” owing to the blockade. This was because supply from some traditional sources stopped and importers had to incur extra expenses on transportation to bring stuff from other places or through longer routes. The official said increasing shipping costs affected importers who had to place orders expeditiously in view of the urgent requirement. While a container of foodstuff from India could be booked for $400-450 a month ago, the cost went up in some cases after the blockade began on June 5, he claimed. Higher costs were reported for some other routes as well, sources said.
 
But that is gradually changing thanks to more shipping lines operating cargo vessels to Hamad Port from different parts of the world, procurement of food items from new sources and overall streamlining of the import process, the sources point out, while also acknowledging and lauding the assistance provided by the government and its relevant agencies to ensure that normal operations continue. Besides, the “increased competition” among shipping firms will help reduce container costs in the coming weeks, they feel.
 
Meanwhile, a wholesaler said they were trying to supply essentials at the “lowest prices possible” keeping in mind the requirements and concerns of Qatar inhabitants. He also said companies are directly procuring goods from sources such as India, Turkey and Iran, which has enabled to them to keep prices under check. “Besides, we are also sourcing goods from places like South America, Australia and Canada to meet the requirements of the local market,” he added.
 
On the issue of fruit prices, he expressed optimism and said some of the South American countries, especially Chile, have begun exporting bulk quantities of fruits. This will help further improve supply and bring down prices, he notes. “Already, the prices of different varieties of apples have started falling after going up marginally for a while,” he said. Another company official said they have stocks for at least two more months even as procurement is continuing. He said spices are arriving from India while cereals and pulses are coming from Turkey.
 
With the land route blocked, items such as eggs and sunflower oil are now being brought from places as Ukraine. Some stuff is also coming from Georgia, it is found, as retailers and importers look for new sources. “Our aim is to make eggs available for around QR15 for a carton of 30 and we are hopeful it will be done shortly if ships arrive on time,” said the representative of a wholesaler. Similarly, some importers are exploring the possibility of bringing long-life milk from a prominent Indian manufacturer and offering them at reasonable rates. “The steps taken by the authorities and co-operation by key players in the foodstuff sector have helped maintain the normal flow of goods,” said a supermarket staff member.
 
Echoing similar views, a resident said things have normalised over the past few weeks due to the availability of new brands of dairy and poultry products as well as vegetables and fruits from new sources. “The government is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the people of the country are not affected,” he added. Also, locally made high-quality farm produce is available at reasonable prices at the central market in Doha as well as in retail outlets around the city and beyond. Besides, locally produced dairy, poultry and other food items are also available in adequate quantities in the local market.
 
source: Gulf Times

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