Qatar residents ‘panic buy’ food after Saudi border closure

In this photo provided by Doha News, shoppers stock up on supplies at a supermarket in Doha, Qatar. (Doha News via AP)
Updated 05 June 2017
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Qatar residents ‘panic buy’ food after Saudi border closure

JEDDAH: Qatar residents on Monday flocked to supermarkets to stock up on food, in response to Saudi Arabia’s decision to close the country’s sole land border effective early morning.

Social media users reported “panic buying,” with pictures of overflowing shopping carts and empty shelves, after major Gulf states cut diplomatic ties with Doha.
“The severity of the Qatari embargo will depend on its duration,” said John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center (GRC). If this is a prolonged matter, then “this will have a significant impact on tradable goods between the Gulf and Qatar,” the Riyadh-based economist told Arab News.

Thousands of trucks filled with food were stuck at the Saudi-Qatari border and were unable to enter Qatar early on Monday.

Saudi academic Hatoon Al-Fassi, who is based in Doha, said shops were full of people on Monday, but shelves soon emptied. She said it resembled what people would do when on the verge of entering “a state of war.”

“Staff at Georgetown University based here (in Doha) received official statements that they should stock up on food and water,” Al-Fassi, who teaches at Qatar University, told Arab News.

Qatar receives much of its food imports via land from the Kingdom, the only country Qatar shares a land border with. According to a report released by the Future Directions International research institute in 2015, most of Qatar’s food imports are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz or across the Saudi border.

With the shutdown of land access from the Kingdom, some expect Qatar to fall short on food products, forcing it to find a substitute.

There will be alternative trading partners for Qatar, but “it could be at a higher cost,” said Sfakianakis. “Qatar could opt to import more goods via its air fleet. It all remains to be seen,” he said.
Sfakianakis added that he does not believe the Saudi import and export industry will be impacted.

Iran said it would provide Qatar with food by sea, the Associated Press reported, citing the semi-official Fars News Agency. The agency quoted Reza Nourani, chairman of the union of exporters of agricultural products, as saying that food shipments sent from Iran can reach Qatar in 12 hours.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE halted exports of white sugar to Qatar, as the fall of diplomatic relations between the countries hit the food trade, Reuters reported on Monday. Qatar is dependent on the Kingdom and the UAE for its white sugar imports, which are estimated to at less than 100,000 tons annually, according to the same report

Qatar, with a population of 2.3 million, was planning to reduce food imports to improve its self-sufficiency in the food industry, as per its National Food Security Program (QNESP) plan, which came into force in 2014. The plan aims to boost domestic food production to supply 40 percent of its food consumption by 2030.



Al-Qaeda leader killed in operation in Sabha: Libyan army

Updated 16 min 45 sec ago
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Al-Qaeda leader killed in operation in Sabha: Libyan army

LONDON: An Al-Qaeda leader known as “Abu Talha Al-Libi” has been killed in an operation near Sabha, southern Libya, the Libyan National Army said Friday. 

“Abu Talha Al-Libi” was killed on Friday morning after a raid on a house he was sharing with other armed men in an area called Al-Qarda Al-Shati, close to Sabha in southern Libya. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a military operation to "purge" extremists and criminal gangs from the south of the conflict-hit nation.
A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said its fighters had advanced in "several regions in the south" from an airbase some 650 kilometres (400 miles) from the capital Tripoli.
The aim is to "assure security for inhabitants in the south-west from terrorists, be they the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal gangs," spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said.
The LNA said it was also looking to secure petroleum facilities and tackle flows of clandestine migrants heading northwards to the Mediterranean coast.
It called on armed groups in the target area, mainly made up of tribal fighters, to withdraw from military and civilian installations.
Military sources told AFP that numerous LNA units had taken up positions in recent days around the region's main city of Sabha.
Libya has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the NATO-backed overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Haftar supports an administration in the east of the country that is opposed to the internationally backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
The chaos has seen extremists and people traffickers gain a foothold in the south of the country.
Daesh has carried out repeated attacks across the country, targeting both Haftar's forces and the rival Tripoli-based authorities.