Posted on February 05, 2016

Local farmers have demanded more support, such as incentives, from the newly-formed Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME). A group of farmers told local Arabic daily Arrayah that investors should be given more incentives to encourage them to undertake agricultural projects. They said that aid in the form of subsidised water and electricity, seeds, fertilisers and agricultural equipment would be ideal for them. Besides, experts in the field pointed out that expansion of greenhouses should be taken into consideration as the most suitable way for food production considering the Qatar environment.

A director of a company that works in the field told the newspaper that a unit of greenhouse could cost between QR35,000 and QR65,000 depending on the quality of the materials used and its size. Qatari businessman Ahmed al-Khalf said that he had a big farm in Al Khor, comprising a number of greenhouses. "Our farm has started to produce a number of vegetables such as cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and others." He further said that such farms were crucial for national food security.

Al-Khalf also said that expansion of the farms could lead to the creation of a new food processing industry with potential for export. However, he hoped that the MME would give more support to local farmers to help them expand the industry. Similarly, Qatari businessman Jaber al-Marri said that he has a farm in Dukhan, with part of it using greenhouse technology. He said the high cost of production in the agricultural field in the country can be met only by more support from the MME in terms of subsidies and technical support. Most of the other farmers complained of the high cost of running a farm in the country due to the nature of its weather and soil and the lack of water resources.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department is planning to increase the number of organic farms from two to six in the next phase as part of Qatar's efforts to expand the production of healthy food. Yousef al-Khelaifi (pictured), director of the MME’s Agriculture Affairs Department, has said that the government supports organic farming because of its positive impact on man, animals and the environment. He said that two organic farms, Al Safwah and Al Sedra, are already in operation and both have achieved great results.

Al-Khelaifi pointed out that the transition from traditional farming into organic ones could take up to two to three years. "However, for the land that is used for cultivation for the first time, organic farming can be started immediately. As organic farming mainly depends on natural and biological sources instead of fertilisers and chemicals, there should be a transitional period of minimum two years when shifting from traditional agricultural methods to organic production."

Al-Khelaifi was speaking on the sidelines of a festival of Qatari organic products, held at Al Mazrouah Yard recently. The festival was aimed at introducing locally-produced organic items to consumers.

source: Gulf Times