ABU DHABI // Residents of Qatar are waiting with growing trepidation for
the full effects of sanctions by other Gulf states to take hold.
Shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of produce just hours after the UAE
and Saudi Arabia announced the closure of land, sea and air routes to the
emirate two weeks ago.
For a country that imports 90 per cent of its food, much of it through a
single land crossing with Saudi Arabia, the impact was immediate.
The panic buying has eased since then thanks to imports from Turkey and
residents have adapted to the changes, but they fear further shortages of
food and worry that the situation will deteriorate after Ramadan.
The American owner of a restaurant chain with outlets in Doha and across
the GCC said produce from Turkey and Kuwait had been filling the gaps in
the market, but she feared there could be more supply problems as there
were no signs of an end to the crisis.
To avoid price increases, Qatar’s ministry of economy and commerce has
been forced to subsidise about 50,000 food products.
Fresh food in particular has been affected as the bulk of Qatar’s fruit and
vegetable imports were brought in by road through the Abu Samra border
crossing between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
2017620 Full effects of sanctions on Qatar yet to take hold | The Nationalhttp://www.thenational.ae/world/qatar/full
Along with imports from alternative sources, there has been an attempt to
increase supplies of local produce, but because there are no price caps on
Qatari food, the costs are high. And the level of local food production is still
far short of demand.
"Practically all groceries, albeit different brands, are available, but some
foodstuffs have gone up in price," said Tawfiq Raji, 26, a Canadian who
works in Qatar.
"Different restaurants are also more frequently sold out of menu items, so
that has a slight detrimental effect on restaurant owners."
In the shops and supermarkets, food imported from Saudi Arabia and the
UAE before the break in ties on June 5 is still on the shelves approaching
its expiry date.
Some residents said life had continued as normal because of the routines
of Ramadan, in particular consumer habits and shortened work hours.
"The population is generally less active during this time, so you wouldn’t
notice that common staples are missing," said Mr Raji.
The American restaurant owner said she had noticed a drop in the number
of people in the malls and less spending generally. She said people
"The only thing that has suffered is people’s confidence that they will have
a job a few months from now, or enough money to leave with if they have
to, so some spending has declined," she said.
Mr Raji said he expected the construction sector, in which he works, to be
affected if the GCC dispute continued. Much of the building material used
in Doha’s construction boom and World Cup projects is also transported
across the Saudi border.
"This will definitely affect the future of the country as there will be
numerous delays faced by many contractors. This will in turn lead to
delayed payments, which could lead to bankruptcy for smaller companies,"
Another issue raised by a Briton who recently moved to the country is the
lack of an easy visarun destination.
"We used to go to Dubai, there was something like two or three flights an
hour. We’d pop in and out within a day, maybe meet up with some mates
while we’re at it," said the 37yearold who is in Doha on a visit visa while
looking for a job.
Now, he said, expats are forced to go to Oman or Kuwait on more
expensive flights and at less convenient times