Since 2008, Qatar has lost 30% of local food production to depleted aquifers

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Online article by Satish Kanady

The Peninsula
Sunday, 30 June 2013

DOHA: Introduction of techno-farming, dedicated water resource, wooing strong private players to the farming sector are some of the key recommendations that figure in Qatar's National Plan for food security that is getting the final touches at the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) office.

The National Plan that envisages to augment Qatar's current domestic production of agriculture from the existing capacity of 8 percent against the country's total demand to 40-60 percent in short term to mid-term, will be submitted to the government either early next month or after Ramadan, a top executive at the QNFSP told the The Peninsula in an interview.

A team of more than 20 experts, including some top international names, put their heads together for more than three years before finalising the ambitious National Plan. The team took out over 25 international exchange trips and visited over 80 countries to look at the development models of respective countries before finalising the plan, Jonathan E. Smith, Senior Adviser to the Chairman, Sustainability and Strategic Communications, QNFSP said in an interview.

In addition to recommendations to enhance the country's production capacity, the National Plan has also suggested how to keep the country immune from price volatility, maintain the nutritional quality of the produce and the economic sustainability of the farming sector.

Capacity building is one of the key issues that need to be addressed. With the country's aquifers fast depleting, farming has become expensive forcing several farmers to quit farming.

Since 2008, Qatar saw a 30 percent decline in local food production.

The farming operations in the northern areas were hit badly where aquifers have almost dried up and face the problem of saline water incursion.

There is a need for new generation desalination plants dedicated to the farming sector.

The country badly needs to recharge its fast depleting aquifers, he said.

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