Sufficient stocks, Hamad Port, a lifeline for 'besieged' Qatar

Sufficient stocks and Hamad Port provide a lifeline for 'besieged' Qatar
4 min read
08 June, 2017
Doha has moved to reassure citizens and residents over the availability of sufficient stocks of food and various consumer goods, as a de facto Saudi-Emirati-Bahraini blockade enters its fourth day
Qatar imports most of its needs by air and sea [AFP file photo]
Authorities in Doha have moved to reassure citizens and residents in Qatar over the availability of sufficient food stocks and other consumer goods, as a de facto Saudi-Emirati-Bahraini blockade entered its fourth day on Thursday.

The country has a sufficient strategic stock of all essential food items, concluded a meeting of food importers hosted by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce (QCC) on Monday.

The stocks would last for up to 12 months, QCC Chief Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Mohammed al-Thani said, according to local press reports in Doha.

Al-Thani explained that, though Qatar's land border with Saudi Arabia is closed, the country continues to receive food and other supplies by sea through Hamad Port and by air.

The Qatari authorities are keen to show the situation is under control, in response to reports of panic buying of food earlier this week triggered by Riyadh's announcement of the closure of land borders, through which Qatar imports food and other supplies.

On social media, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has been posting videos of fully stocked grocery stores.

"There is no need to worry as there is surplus stock of major food products and prices will be stable as most of them are at fixed rates," an MEC statement said on Monday.

The MEC stressed that the "sweeping majority of products are imported through air and maritime ports". The ministry said it was co-ordinating with importers to ensure that imports continue normally while "alternative plans exist to face any shortages in commodities". 

The ministry also insisted that prices would not be affected in the short term by the crisis, confirming the presence of contingency plans to deal with such crises.

Echoing the MEC, Hamad Port, the country's recently inaugurated "mega port", has also taken to Twitter, posting infographics explaining that a majority of Qatar's imports of meat, cars and building materials entered the country by sea.

Damage done

But while Qatar is likely able to withstand the measures for some time, air and marine traffic from and to Doha is already disrupted.

The Qatari national carrier has been blocked from landing in the Gulf countries that cut off relations, as well as from crossing their airspaces, forcing an expensive reroute - although Qatar Airways has said most of its operations continue normally.

On Wednesday, Evergreen, the world's number six container shipping line, and OOCL, the world's seventh-largest carrier, said in separate statements that they had temporarily suspended services to and from Qatar until further notice.

Evergreen said this was "in light of the blockade imposed on Qatar", while OOCL cited "the current political climate in the region".

They join Denmark's Maersk - the world's biggest container shipping line - which said on Tuesday it was unable to transport goods in or out of Qatar because it could not take them through the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali.

Maersk added that it was trying to find alternative routes.

However, the world's second-largest shipping line, MSC of Switzerland, said on Wednesday "cargo acceptance to and from Qatar is still ongoing", according to Reuters.

The ban imposed earlier this week has meant that container ships and other types of vessels sailing to and from Qatar will be prevented from calling at major ports in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which include Jebel Ali, as well as Bahrain.

Qatar is dependent on imports for its basic needs, which are transported both by land and sea. Container ships carry vital consumer supplies, including food. Fewer container services will also hurt Qatar's ability to trade.

The choking off of Qatar is an explicit goal of the Gulf countries behind the recent measures against Doha, with a view to force the gas-rich emirate to adjust its more independent foreign policies. 

"The decisions that were made were very strong and will have a fairly large cost on Qatar and we do not believe that Qataris want to sustain those costs," said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair, in reference to the blockade.

The UAE said on Wednesday that more moves against Qatar, including further curbs on business, remained on the table. On Wednesday, Qatari officials suggested the measures against Doha and its citizens constituted a human rights violation, and called on the United Nations to intervene.

With input from agencies