(MENAFN- Gulf Times) South Africa has recorded a sharp increase in its food exports to Qatar after the economic blockade imposed on the country in June 2017, according to ambassador Faizel Moosa.
He also noted that South Africa's robust food and agriculture industry could play a significant role in Qatar's food security initiatives and self-sufficiency programmes, such as the establishment of food processing facilities in Qatar.
'I think South Africa offers a lot in that regard. We have a very extensive food industry, including a huge halal meat industry, and I think that is what is attracting Qataris to come and explore, Moosa told Gulf Times in an interview.
'In terms of food security, we are also technologically-advanced when it comes to agriculture and I think that is something that we could offer and will offer to the Qataris, he continued.
On the establishment of food processing facilities in Qatar, Moosa said, 'That would definitely be on the horizon. Qataris require the technology and they got the financial muscle to put up these facilities here, and we can then supply into the facilities our technology and our expertise.
He added, 'We want to establish a long-term relationship with Qatar and not just take advantage of the blockade. We do believe that we could offer some of the solutions that would require and ensure their food security.
Douw Vermaak, political counsellor at the South African embassy in Doha, said there was a spike in demand for South African food products in Qatar.
'Food export to Qatar is actually our primary exports, and fresh and processed foods are very popular; the amount of trade that we are doing in fresh food skyrocketed before and after the blockade, he said.
'We have yet to compile the complete figures and with the blockade coming through, the trade has just skyrocketed, so we are still waiting for the final figures, the ambassador explained.
According to Vermaak, talks are going on between South Africa and Hassad Food for the supply of animal feeds to Qatar.
'South Africa does not also get a lot of rain, so the cattle and sheep that we have are used to very dry conditions and this is the kind of technology that we will be also proposing to Qatar in the coming period, he said.
The ambassador also said Qataris are keen to look at South Africa's automotive industry. 'And I think we will be talking to them about the R & D side that we've got and if they want to bring automotive assembly plants to Qatar, we would like to be part of it, he said.
Moosa noted that preparations are underway for high-level bilateral consultations slated this year. The talks would cover a wide range of sectors, including health, education, and defence, he said.
'We are just trying to finalise the dates. The two foreign ministers are scheduled to meet this year. We will try to fast-track all of those discussions that were held in the beginning to make it easier for both countries to engage in trade. We already have bilateral agreements being finalised, Moosa added.
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