With the onset of the harvest season in Qatar, locally produced vegetables are flooding the market, causing the prices to plummet drastically.
The farmers, however, say that they are losing as the revenue from sales hardly covers the cost of cultivation. They have called for government intervention to restrict the import of vegetables during the harvest season in the country and to do away with middlemen in the wholesale market.
Vegetables that reach the market from local farms daily are put to auction early in the morning. The wholesalers buy the daily crop at these auctions conducted by authorised brokers. The prices fluctuate almost daily and are dictated by the demand and supply on that particular day.
Qatar sees the lowest prices for vegetable during this season, which attracts a large number of customers to the central market. Prices are relatively high in retail shops across the country.
“We have seen vegetables that we sell at QR6 per box in the wholesale market being sold at QR6 per kilo in some retail shops. Farmers are the losers while the traders and the middlemen stand to again. The government should intervene to create a mechanism by which the farmers can deal directly with the customers,” Badar Ali Hussain Al Sada, a young national who runs a farm in Al Shamal, told The Peninsula yesterday.
“The prices were better today. We sold a box of cucumber for QR17 in the wholesale market. There were days when the same was sold for just QR6. The income from the sales is not enough even to cover the costs, not to speak about profits,” he lamented.
There are countries that support local farmers through subsidies and restrictions on foreign imports. “We are expecting such measures from our government. Agriculture is growing fast in Qatar with more people entering the field,” added Al Sada.
Firoz, an Indian who works in Al Sada’s farm, said the prices of locally produced vegetables had fallen drastically over the past few years due to a steady increase in supply.
“Some years ago, we could see very few local products in the market. A box of cucumber or tomato that we sold at QR50 or QR70 at that time now cost only QR10 or less,” said Firoz.
He and his friend Shoukat Ali, who works with another farm, in Shahaniya, were waiting at the wholesale market yesterday to collect the proceeds from the early morning auction.
The vegetable farming season in Qatar starts immediately after summer and spans for about four months. Almost every vegetable can be grown in Qatar but the major produce that reaches the market includes tomato, cucumber, “koosa”, potato, okra, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, green chilli and a variety of leaves.
“Prices of tomato will see a major fall in the coming days as the harvest has only started,” said Ali. Last year, the product was available at a retail price of just QR3 per box in the central market in the best season.
He said the vegetable seeds used in farming are brought mainly from Jordan, the United States, India and Bangladesh.
Chemical fertilisers are not used widely in the local farms, said Ali.
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