Yesterday we reported that as the Qatar crisis continues with no resolution in sight, in an act of generosity toward its distressed Gulf neighbor, Iran dispatched four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetable every day. Qatar has also been holding talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut links, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
However, any stopgap measures implemented so far are not nearly enough to compensate for all the food imports lost as a result of the gulf blockade. So, for the nation with the highest GDP/capita in the world, where money is largely not an object, an ingenious solution has emerged.
Call it the biggest bovine airlift in history, as Bloomberg puts it. Because while the “showdown between Qatar and its neighbors has disrupted trade, split families and threatened to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances”, it has prompted one enterprising Qatari businessman to fly 4,000 cows to the Gulf desert in an act of resistance and opportunity to fill the void left by a collapse in the supply of fresh milk.
The reason for the dramatic “solution” to the millk embargo is that most of Qatar’s fresh milk and dairy products, meant for Doha’s more than 1 million residents, came from Saudi Arabia up until a week ago. That supply was cut off after the kingdom and its allies cut transport links with “a country that spends $500 million a week to prepare stadiums and a metro before the soccer World Cup in 2022.”
According to Bloomberg’s calculations, it will take as many as 60 flights for Qatar Airways to deliver the 590-kilogram beasts that Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, bought in Australia and the U.S. “This is the time to work for Qatar,” he said. In addition to the abovementioned airlifted Turkish dairy goods and Iranian fruit and vegetables, there’s also a campaign to buy home-grown produce. Signs with colors of the Qatari flag have been placed next to dairy products in stores. One sign dangling from the ceiling said: “Together for the support of local products.”
“Our government has made sure we have no shortages and we are grateful for that. We have no fear. No one will die of hunger.”
“It’s a message of defiance, that we don’t need others,” said Umm Issa, 40, a government employee perusing the shelves of a supermarket before taking a carton of Turkish milk to try.
Only you do, and those who provide the much needed milk will get even richer than they already are.
For Al Khayaat, whose main business is a construction firm that built Qatar’s biggest mall, the cow-a-drop may be a slam dunk business decision. He has been expanding the company’s agricultural business at a farm 50 kilometers north of Doha. Food security is part of Qatar’s government strategy to steer the economy away from petrodollars, known, like in Saudi Arabia, as “Vision 2030.” And what better way to aggressively grow that business than at a time when it is your countrymen’s patriotic duty to buy your goods.
On a site covering the equivalent of almost 70 soccer fields, new grey sheds line two strips of verdant grass in the desert with a road running through the middle up to a small mosque. It produces sheep milk and meat and there were already plans to import the cows by sea. Then Qatar was ostracized, so the project was expedited.
Fresh milk production will start by the end of the month rather than September and will eventually cover a third of Qatar’s demand by mid-July, Al Khayyat told Bloomberg at his office in Doha. Facilities for the Holstein cows are ready, though the company will take a hit on the shipping cost for the animals, which increased more than five times to $8 million.
Which amounts to $2,000 per cow. At that price, it was not immediately clear if the cows would fly business or first class.