Qatar Readies Food Contingency Plan on Trade Disruptions

Qatar hired local and international consultants, including experts from Texas A&M University, to draft food-supply contingency plans in the event of a crisis, such as a disruption to regional trade routes.

“Like any nation, we looked at dozens of security scenarios,” Jonathan Smith, head of communications at the Qatar National Food Security Program, said in a phone interview from Doha. Qatar, which imports most of its food, didn’t commission the report as a response to threats of regional unrest, he said.

Political turmoil in Egypt and Syria, along with Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, revealed the vulnerability of Gulf Cooperation Council nations to supply disruptions, London-based Chatham House said in a study this month. The strait is used ship 35 percent of the GCC’s wheat and coarse grain imports, and 81 percent of its rice purchases, the study said. The region supplies one-fifth of the world’s crude oil.

Qatar, a nation of about 2 million people, is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. The contingency report looked into scenarios including the closing of the waterway or the land border with Saudi Arabia, and a regional war that doesn’t involve the country, according to a person with knowledge of the study. Other possibilities included an air embargo, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details are confidential.

Smith declined to comment on specific scenarios. The four-volume report was presented to “higher authorities” in the summer, he said.

Qatar’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia. It imports 92 percent of its food, with about 45 coming through the Strait of Hormuz, Smith said.

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