Qatar to receive food deliveries from Iran

11 June 2017

Iran Air posted a tweet of a delivery being loaded at Shiraz airport

Qatar is set to receive a number of food deliveries from Iran, according to a report carried by France’s Agence France-Presse.

A spokesman for Iran Air, Shahrokh Noushabadi, told the French news agency: “So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today.”

Iran Air posted a tweet of a photograph of a food delivery bound for Qatar being loaded at Iran’s Shiraz airport.

It is understood that five plane loads of food have been sent to Qatar in response to the land, air and sea blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

Earlier this month, when the Qatar crisis started, Iranian media reports quoted several government officials as saying Tehran would be prepared to export food products to Qatar if the blockade continues.

“Food shipments from Iran can reach Qatar in 12 hours,” Reza Nourani, chairman of the union of exporters of agricultural products, was quoted as saying by the local Fars News Agency.

Analysts have told MEED the decision by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to close airspace, ports and territorial waters to air traffic and shipping to and from Qatar are likely to have serious ramifications on the country’s food supplies.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia and the UAE made up almost 40 per cent of all food products imported by Qatar. The country’s land border with Saudi Arabia is the main route for more than half of its food supplies.

Saudi Arabia has decided to close this border, leaving the Qataris dependent on air and sea freight for food, which could increase prices.

“The impact on food security has so far been understated, and the Qataris could soon find out how vulnerable they are to their neighbours,” says Jack Kennedy, an analyst at UK-based IHS.

“While construction and industries will be at the forefront of the economic argument, food security and access to key commodities will be key.”

Social media reports and pictures have circulated showing long queues at supermarkets and cash machines in Qatar as residents respond to the economic blockade, one Doha-based analyst has told MEED under the conditions of anonymity.

Food deliveries could escelate tensions 

The average fleet age of state-owned Iran Air is 24 years

Accepting a delivery of food from Iran could further escalate the tensions between Doha and Riyadh.

As well as being accused of funding regional terrorism, Doha has come under scrutiny for its position on Iran which Riyadh says is not in line with the rest of the GCC bloc.

The shipment of food also follows comments made by Qatar’s foreign minister on 8 July, during which he Doha would not back track on its foreign policy. The foreign minister also revealed that Iran had offered to send food products to the isolated Gulf state.

It is understood that bilateral talks between Qatar and GCC countries, mediated by Kuwait, are underway with Turkey and US keen on finding a solution for the fallout soon. But the latest development will anger diplomats in Riyadh, who hold a non-negotiable position on Iran.

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