The local produce yards have opened across Qatar for the new season 2020–21, selling fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, plants and more!
The Agricultural Affairs Department at the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) opened the new season for the local produce yards on 29 October 2020.
Qatar hosts many farmers’ markets throughout the year, but usually between October and late April/beginning of May. These markets promote the development of local produce and encourage local farming.
Fresh vegetables and fruits from local farms are available for sale at all five local produce yards, which are Al Mazrouah, Al Wakra, Al Khor and Al Thakhira, Al Shamal, and Al Sheehaniya. The yards operate from 7 am to 4 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Cash is necessary as there are no credit card facilities available. Prices are clearly placed in both English and Arabic on large white cards. Bargaining is acceptable.
The rustic, open-air yards sell more than 21 different types of locally produced vegetables and fruits including cucumbers, courgettes, watermelons, melons, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and other leafy vegetables at cheaper prices, and encourage the production and regulation of homegrown produce as markets are fully overseen by MME. Honey, poultry, fish, and plants and flowers are also sold at these yards. More variety of products will be added as the harvest time of each plant approaches. Prices of products are expected to go down as more vegetables and larger quantities of products will be on sale at the yards.
At least 150 local farms are taking part in the new season, supplying their fresh products for sale. These yards are an opportunity for local farmers to sell their produce without having to pay any fees, and there is any mediator between them. These measures have reduced the retail prices by 20% compared to other outlets. More farmers and/or farms are expected to join the new season, increasing as the season continues.
Health and safety
According to MME, the necessary preparations have been made at the five yards before resuming operations for the new season. The yards have been cleaned, sanitised and disinfected as a measure against COVID-19 as well as sprayed to deter rodents and insects.
Furthermore, the yards have been refurbished with shades and umbrellas, pavements, and other internal developments to better improve the shopping experience.
Local farming and agriculture
Situated in the Arabian Gulf the country is a dry, subtropical desert with rough, sandy terrain and just 1% of arable land. It is a marvel how Qatar has managed to overcome this obstacle and contribute a good volume of local agricultural produce to its people.
As well as fishing and pearling, Qatar has always been involved in agriculture, particularly in
Al Rayyan and Al Khor, the latter of which has the highest number of farms in the country. However, since the blockade in 2017, the country has made a concerted effort to grow its agricultural sector, with production increasing by more than 100%.
To date, there are 1,400 agriculture farms in the north and over 400 greenhouses. According to MME, self-sufficiency in vegetable production is at 24% and is expected to exceed 70% in the next five years. Qatar has also achieved 100% self-sufficiency in live poultry, meat and dairy products.
Self-sufficiency in vegetable production has reached 24% and is expected to reach 90% by 2023.
Special agricultural facilities have also opened up to promote pisciculture, with the capacity to house over 2.4 mn fish larvae. Shrimp production is 79% self-sufficient with a current production of six tonnes a year.
Dairy production too has flourished incredibly, making Qatar totally self-sufficient in dairy and dairy products.
Overall food production has shown tremendous growth – by a whopping 400% – and an estimated QAR10 bn has been achieved in annual fresh food trade volume. Advancement in technology and further research in agricultural production alternatives has helped improve and develop the farming scenario in the country.
To ensure the availability of farm fresh products all year, farmers are increasingly turning to technological solutions, incorporating LED or dark room technology which eliminates the threat of pests and diseases. LED lighting is considered far better than traditional light sources and is more energy efficient, as the farmers can adjust the light according to the stages of plant growth.
The lights can also be changed according to the stage of the seed’s germination – blue for the sprouting of the seed, red for photosynthesis, sprouting, flowering and fruiting. This technology enables farmers to grow their crops indoors at regulated temperatures and not worry about pests and diseases.
Facilities have also adopted hydroponics in farming where a water solvent with the required nutrients is used as a base for plant growth instead of the traditional use of soil. The nutrient enriched water comes from the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures housing in an aquaponic facility.
Many indoor farms, whether hydroponic or traditional, have installed sensors that help detect inconsistencies in manufacture. Primarily, the detection of air temperature and humidity, soil temperature and moisture, soil pH, light, wind, concentration of carbon dioxide, and the content of oxygen is conducted along with 200 other parameters. This can also be linked to internet agriculture, where Internet of Things is used in agricultural procedures.
Farms such as Qatari Agricultural Development Company (AGRICO) and Al Sulaiteen Agricultural & Industrial Complex (SAIC) have embraced the concept of hydroponics in their farming methodology, wherein a water solvent with nutrients is used as a base for plant growth rather than soil. Qatar now has five purely organic farms.
Author: Ola Diab
This feature is an editorial from the ‘Shopping’ section in Marhaba – Issue 79 (December 2020).
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