A reported move by Saudi Arabia to stop export of bottled water to Qatar and other GCC countries may lead to a shortage in the local market and a subsequent rise in the prices, say traders.
Importers say that they have not received any consignment of bottled water from Saudi Arabia over the past one week. Imports from Saudi Arabia come by road through the Abu Samra border.
The reasons for the sudden disruption in supply is not known but traders say that imports to all GCC countries have been suspended. They fear that if the supply is not restored immediately, it may lead to a rise in prices of other brands in the local market in the near future.
There are a more than a dozen brands of bottled water produced in Saudi Arabia, most of which are available in Qatar. According to some traders, they form about 30 percent of the total bottled water sold in the Qatari market. The major Saudi brands include Safa, Nova, Al Helwa, Nakhlan, Al Fasool and Sihatak.
“We have heard that Saudi Arabia is stopping exports of bottled water due to a drop in production there. However, we will not be affected much since we are selling only one or two Saudi brands. Majority of our stocks are from Qatar and the UAE,” an official of a leading hypermarket told this newspaper yesterday.
He said local products were dominating the market, followed by those imported from the UAE. The Saudi brands come third, as far as supply is concerned. Bottled water produced in Turkey and some other countries are also available in Qatar.
Some importers, however, say that the Saudi products play an important role in the market due their lower shipment costs and popularity among nationals.
Many Qataris like the Saudi brands because they are believed to have been produced from underground water taken from wells. They come handy in small bottles of 330ml, 600ml and 1.5 liters.
Import costs are lowest for Saudi products and it normally takes just two days for the consignments to reach Qatar. However, shipments from the UAE are costlier and take more time, sometimes upto a week.
Importers say that any disruption in the Saudi imports will force the traders to rely more on local brands and those imported from the UAE. While the local products are not sufficient to meet the demand, an increased dependence on the UAE brands could result in high import costs, and ultimately a hike in the prices.
Several traders have called on the authorities to look into the matter and take measures to restore supply to prevent a severe shortage of bottled water in the market.
Despite the fact that desalinated tap water in Qatar has been rated high in quality by the World Health Organisation, a large number of nationals and residents rely on bottled water on a regular basis. Interestingly, majority of the bottled water in the local market are produced from desalinated water with some extra filtering and addition of some minerals.
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