A Nuffielder’s Tour of Qatar

Host: BMC Consulting
Written by Blythe Calnan – Consultant, BMC Consulting.

For the last three years I have had the opportunity to host a group of Nuffield agricultural scholars in Doha, Qatar. Nuffield Australian Farming Scholarships is a unique program that awards primary producers with a life changing scholarship to travel overseas and study an agricultural topic of choice. Prior to their individual studies they undertake the Global Focus Program, a whirlwind trip around the world looking at different agricultural systems.

Agriculture in Doha you ask? That would be a whole of five minutes! Think again . . .

 4.1The Nuffield Scholars are always impressed by the hospitality and the food of the Middle East! 


Widam – Live Export and Chilled Meat Import

In 2013 year Doha imported over 560,000 head of live Australian sheep and 1150 of live Australian cattle worth A$51 million. In 2013 Meat (excluding beef) was worth A$40 million to our economy and Beef meat was worth A$20 Million.

I have done a lot of work with Qatar over the years, but you are always nervous bringing new people into the system, especially since Nuffielders come from all facets of farming, aquaculture, veges, cropping, and flowers as well as livestock backgrounds. Slaughter is never pretty, intensive livestock systems can be challenging, and the Middle East operates differently to systems people might have seen at home.

The hospitality and transparency of the staff at Widam is impressive and refreshing, the group grill them about the quality of Australian live and chilled produce, the systems Australians have put in place and where the future is heading for meat in the region. They are then given a no holds barred tour through the facility, viewing cattle and sheep slaughter points, process lines, chillers, distribution systems, and laboratories.

4.2Understanding and exploring the live export supply chain is an important part of the tour.

Hassad Foods International

Hassad Food is a global premier investor and developer in the agriculture and livestock sectors. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of Qatar Holding who’s mandate is to run a profitable business with sustainable growth as well as to contribute to the food security program for Qatar. Their five pillars of production and supply are rice, sugar, grain, meat, and fodder. They have investments in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Sudan, Turkey, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Uruguay, Georgia, and Qatar. Hassad’s Australian Vice President of Operations sits with the scholars and explains the companies strategies, goals, systems, and challenges. The scholars in turn get to grill Andrew on foreign investment, food security, and whatever else may interest them.

4.3Hassad’s flower farm in the desert defies belief.

The group then travels to some of Hassad’s Qatar projects, Hassad Rosa, an incredible showpiece greenhouse in the desert providing flowers for Qatar and export and growing vegetables in the summer. Their pivot irrigation program in the desert utilising recycled water to grow fodder for livestock, but shows what can be done in a hostile environment with plenty of fuel and water!

4.4These pivots of fodder grown in the desert show what’s possible.

Qatar Flour Mills

QFM imports vast amounts of grain to mill into Qatar and produces flour for export and bakery products for the local market. The group of scholars have meetings with management and the go on an extensive tour though the port and milling facility.

 4.5Great to see what happens to Australian wheat beyond our shores.

Fruit and Vegetable Markets

The fruit and vegetable markets are a rainbow from around the world. With most things imported there are rarely seasonal availability issues, pineapples from the Phillipines, Kiwi fruit from New Zealand, Carrots from WA (the same carrots that grow next door to me!), strawberries from the USA, and asparagus from Holland.

Fish Markets

The seafood markets in Doha an interesting mix, with fish and shellfish from the local gulf and imported from other regions and afar. Oysters from France were even available!

4.6The fruit and vegetable markets are amazingly colourful.

Souk and Dhow Cruise

The tour isn’t all about work, reflection and relaxation time means jumping in an evening harbour tour on a traditional fishing dhow, visiting the spectacular Museum of Modern Islamic Art, and the traditional markets.

 4.7A cruise on the bay on a traditional boat is a great way to reflect on the hectic days been. 

Showing these groups around the region, which will always have a special spot in my heart, is one of the most rewarding parts of my year. The Middle East is not easy to access, and our media coverage does not do it justice. To introduce these farmers to the hospitality of the people of Qatar and helping them understand how the Middle East fits into global agriculture leaves me hopping on the plane home with an extra spring in my step. If you think you know a farmer who could take on the challenge visit http://nuffield.com.au