Qatari aims to fly in 4,000 cows amid fears of food shortage

Businessman Moutaz Al Khayyat has offered to fly in 4,000 cows into Qatar. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

DOHA • When Saudi Arabia and a number of other major Arab states announced last week that they were cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar, the first reaction of many in the tiny Gulf state was simple: head to the supermarket.

That is because almost all food products in Qatar are imported, usually across the now-closed land border with Saudi Arabia.

As photographs of barren supermarket shelves spread online, many feared the worst. But one Qatari businessman has offered a partial solution: Fly in 4,000 cows.

Mr Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, told Bloomberg News that it may take 60 flights to deliver all the cows.

"This is the time to work for Qatar," he told the news agency.

Mr Khayyat had already been planning to expand his company's agricultural business. The plan has now been expedited so that by mid-next month, he can cover a third of Qatar's demand for dairy products.

Although the facilities for the cows were already built, Mr Khayyat said the shipping cost would increase five times to US$8 million (S$11 million).

The Qatari authorities have repeatedly dismissed concerns about the country's food supply.

"We can live forever like this," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al- Thani told reporters in Doha last Thursday, adding that only 16 per cent of Qatar's food imports came through the now-closed land border crossing with Saudi Arabia.

Over recent days, a social media campaign to show off goods that were made in Qatar has spread online.

Analysts have had their doubts, however.

"Qatar receives 99 per cent of its food from outside," Dr Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Gulf State Analytics, told WorldViews last week. "They are wholly dependent on outside supplies, particularly with foodstuffs."


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline Qatari aims to fly in 4,000 cows amid fears of food shortage. Subscribe