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Friday 22 September 2017

Qatari businessman plans airlift of 4,000 cows to boost milk supply as blockade bites

Josie Ensor

A Qatari businessman is planning to airlift 4,000 dairy cows to the country to tackle the acute shortage of fresh milk after several Gulf nations severed ties with Doha.   

Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, will fly the bovine in 60 flights, in what is thought to be the biggest airlift of cattle ever attempted.   

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic, economic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting extremist groups.

Most of the fresh milk and dairy products for Doha's more than one million population came from Saudi Arabia up until a week ago.

But the isolation that started on June 5 has forced Qatar to look at new friends to import food and other materials.  

On Sunday, Iran had sent five planes of vegetables to Qatar.

“So far five planes carrying... vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent on Sunday,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said.  

Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar.   Dairy products have also been flown in from Turkey and there is a campaign to urge people to use homegrown products.  

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Morocco said it would send plane-loads of food to Qatar to boost supplies there.  

Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbours before the diplomatic shutdown, has also been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.  

"This decision was made in conformity with Islamic precepts that call for solidarity and mutual aid between Muslim people, notably during this holy month of Ramadan," the Moroccan foreign ministry statement said on Monday.  

On Sunday, Morocco said it would remain neutral in the dispute, offering to mediate between the Gulf countries, which are all close allies to the North African kingdom.  

Qatar’s rapid moves to circumvent the worst effects of the week-old blockade come in the midst of escalating diplomatic efforts by the emirate to rally international support for its case. The country’s foreign minister has flown to Moscow, London and Germany in recent days.  

At the beginning of the second week of the embargo, Qatar’s financial markets appeared to be stabilising, with shares prices bouncing back after falls last week.


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