Qataris stock up on food amidst fear of economic blockade

Doha [Qatar]: Ever since six countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar after accusing the state of supporting terrorism and destabilising the region, residents of Qatar have been stocking up on food, worried that a diplomatic spat with its neighbours could turn into an economic blockade and lead to shortages.

Saudi Arabia has severed all land, sea and air links with Qatar, and the UAE has closed its airports and harbours to Qatari flights and shipping even as the state says the claims are “unjustified” and “baseless.”

Though Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it relies heavily on imported food. The country imported about $1 billion worth of foodstuffs in 2015, with about a third of that coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the World Bank data.

“Food security is a big issue here in Qatar,” CNN quoted Adel Abdel Ghafar, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, as saying.

“So the closing of air and land crossing has implications for the food supply chain,” he added.

Iran, however, is prepared to ship food to Qatar through its three ports in the south of the country, Fars, a semi official Iranian news agency, said.

The diplomatic spat has created a rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional alliance made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

Tensions escalated last week after the official Qatar News Agency ran a report quoting the Emir of Qatar making favourable comments about Iran and criticising U.S. President Donald Trump’s hardline policy towards Tehran.

Qatar later clarified the news agency was hacked, and that the report quoting the Emir was “fake news.” (ANI)