Food for thought

Food security is now high on the government agenda as Qatar looks at becoming self sufficient. Arabian Business Qatar meets Widam CEO Ahmad Nasser Sraiya Al Kaabi, who is expanding the livestock business to meet the demands of his country
Ahmad Nasser Sraiya Al Kaabi oversees a business empire that comprises more than 40 companies.

Ahmad Nasser Sraiya Al Kaabi oversees a business empire that comprises more than 40 companies.

He may have started off earning about $800 a month on his first job, but Ahmad Nasser Sraiya Al Kaabi has a come a long way since then. He’s now at the helm of Al Sraiya Holding and Widam (previously known as Qatar Company for Meat & Livestock Trading, or Mawashi), which is engaged in the trading in livestock, meat, animal feeds and meat derivatives in addition to management of slaughterhouses. Al Kaabi also oversees a business empire that comprises more than 40 companies.

Al Kaabi started his career with the family business and worked his way up after starting in the administrative section of the outfit. When he was just shy of 30 he took over the holding company. Today, Widam transports livestock, fodder and meat products to facilitate trade; manages the automatic and national slaughterhouses; owns a branch in Sudan for the trade of meat and animal feeds; and uses the latest technology in processing its range of products according to international standards and specifications.

The company, which trades on the Qatar Exchange, saw its net profit surge by around 29 percent last year to QAR75m ($12.9m) compared with the same period in 2011. In 2009, the company posted a QR18m ($4.9m) profit.

The performance of the company today stands in stark contrast to the condition it was in when a new board of directors took over the company and decided to restructure the business.

A development strategy was put in place, and investment went into the training of staff, applying international standards in the company.

“Once all this was set, the company started operating fresh and the profits were almost doubling,” says Kaabi. The company has grown stronger financially and has also become a dominant market player in line with the rising demand for meat, which is expanding at about 30 percent a year.

Now, Widam is looking to tap into the industries of fish and poultry as part of its long-term plan to play a key role in the country’s food security plans in line with the government’s objectives.

Qatar National Food Security Programme, which was launched in 2008, aims to reduce Qatar’s reliance on food imports and look at ways of being able to produce more of the country’s requirements domestically without having to fly everything in from abroad.

The emirate currently imports 90 percent of its food requirements. A food security master plan should be announced this year and it would take ten years to be implemented, according to Fahad Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP). One of the initiatives included in the master plan is to set up some 1,400 agricultural farms covering a total area of 45,000 hectares.

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Posted by: Fatima

@Qatari: if only QNFSP would listen to their constituency instead of getting expensive consultants to dream up unrealistic plans. One wonders what they've been doing on this so-called little 'master plan' since 2008. We need more leaders like Al Kaabi.

Posted by: Anon

What with their passion for fast junk food and ever increasing levels of obscene obesity, its no wonder they need to secure their next meal. Sad country, dismal future.

Posted by: Qatari

A very wise strategy for Qatar to secure its own food. I hope QNFSP and Fahad Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah read this comment.
In Qatar we have a very high demand for farms and a very limited supply, farms prices range between 20 to 70 million QAR. I wish that the 1,400 agriculture farms will be sold to the local population to get the private sector into the plan. This will give the local population a chance to grow their own food.

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