Expats and Qataris panic buying in fear of food shortages

Published:  6 Jun at 6 PM
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Following the news that Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, the country’s supermarket and food shop shelves were emptied by Qataris and expats fearing imminent food shortages.

Qatar grows very few food crops, importing 90 per cent of its needs mainly from its neighbour Saudi Arabia via daily truck runs across the border between the two countries. Saudi Arabia’s decision to close its land border crossing with Qatar has caused panic in Doha's streets, with supermarkets and smaller shops already running out of supplies. As the news of the cut-off broke, lines of stationary lorries carrying foodstuffs from Saudi were seen marooned on the Saudi side of the border.

Sally Bruce, a Western journalist living in Doha and working between Dubai and Qatar told the National newspaper her friends were already buying up all the food they could find. Although they’re hoping the crisis will blow over, she added, they’re bulk-buying in preparation for the worst. The scene in the streets is chaotic, with expats and Qataris rushing into the supermarkets and grabbing milk, poultry, dairy products and fresh foods. The website Bruce is working with has already seen non-Qatari sponsors pulling out, and flights to and from the country are in chaos.

Some 800 lorries pass through the Saudi border customs post every day, carrying mainly food and building materials imported from Lebanon, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bahrain and Jordan. White sugar imports, important during Ramadan, are now stopped, and very little information as to what happens next is forthcoming. Qatar’s ruling council has issued a notice reassuring its citizens the present situation will not affect day-to-day life and is also insisting it’s taken steps to ensure no negative impact will be felt.

The government seems to be relying on sea-borne food shipments, with the trip from Iran taking as little as 12 hours and Iranian officials already offering to transport agricultural products by sea. Iran has played a central role in the diplomatic breakdown between Qatar, Saudi and the other involved emirates, as it’s believed to be supporting terrorist organisations.

Qatar itself is reputed to be supporting several Islamist groups in the region as well as helping other groups via its lax anti-terrorist financing laws. At present, apart from air travel problems, there is very little information as to the effect of the situation on expats working in Qatar.

Source: The National
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