Doha, September 23 (QNA) – A new market survey study carried out by the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) has revealed that the recent decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ban exports of five types of vegetables has a limited impact on their prices in the local markets of Qatar. “Looking at retail prices of the five products over the past two weeks provided by the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) we see no significant changes in these prices,” the study reiterated. However, it added: “out of all the products, potatoes are more likely to have a slight price increase in the interim due to the Saudi ban and a large local demand. For the other four products prices may also increase but to a lesser extent and mainly due to other factors such as increased land transportation costs and seasonal variations.”
The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture had issued a decree banning the export of potatoes, watermelon, dry onion, sweet melon and pumpkin as of 17th September 2012. Subsequently, media reports spoke of a new wave of price hikes including a possible 30-40% increase in the prices of potatoes. Currently Qatar imports more than 65% of its needs of this crop from Saudi Arabia.
Underlining that Saudi Arabia is “the major importing source for pumpkin, watermelon, sweet melon and potatoes,” the study said. Onions are mainly imported from India, whose prices are similar to those of Saudi Arabia. It added that “Saudi Arabia’s dominance in the Qatari markets for these vegetables is largely due to: the highly perishable nature of those products and KSA being the closest producer; and the small size of the Qatari market.”
However, the study affirms that “alternative suppliers of these products are available in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Turkey, Iran, China and others, some of whose unit prices are comparable to those of Saudi Arabia.” “In time, these sources will fill most of the shortfall,” the study reiterated.
Commenting on the study, the Executive Chairman of QNFSP, HE Fahad bin Mohamed Al Attiya, said that the new development shows the potential to easily increase local production for at least some of these crops, like watermelon, sweet melon and pumpkin. Local producers can take advantage of the market needs and relatively high prices, he added.
According to the study, the current situation provides a good incentive for increased local production of vegetables including potatoes which can also be easily stored for long time with appropriate storage facilities. (QNA)