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Spain’s food exports to Qatar have increased by 43% in the first eight months of 2017, ambassador Ignacio Escobar said.

“In terms of bilateral relations with Qatar, the exports of agro-food products have been rising steadily since 2015 in very high terms, around 26% every year.

We are setting a record, because from January to August 2017, our food exports to Qatar have risen to 43%, and for the first time we have exceeded €23mn,” Escobar told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the ‘3rd Hospitality Qatar’ press conference held.

Escobar said Spanish products are already in the Qatari market but he also underlined the “lack of variety” of these products in the Qatari market compared to other countries in the region.

“This is why we are trying to work to change the situation. We did our homework and talked to major distributors in Qatar to determine the needs of the market before bringing anything to the country to make sure that what we bring here is exactly what consumers want.”

He also noted that many food distributors in the country have been dealing directly with suppliers in Spain.

“What we are experiencing now is that more and more operators in the Qatari market are going directly to Spain instead of buying through the usual channels. This means they are getting fresher products at a much more competitive price because they are getting rid of the middle man in the process,” Escobar explained.

The ambassador also noted Spain’s contribution to Qatar’s food security initiatives, saying that Spain is the fourth largest food exporter in Europe and the eighth globally. “But we are the first in Europe in the production of bioecological food, wherein food safety is one of our priorities,” said Escobar.

The ambassador said Spain is working with Qatar “in several fields” on food security, specifically on greenhouse technologies and vegetable production. “There are certain things that are relatively easy to have profitable production, which is greenhouse and vegetable production.

“Spain is producing around 50% of Europe’s fresh fruits and vegetables, and we have a specific system that has been tested and working in Qatar to produce under greenhouse technology even during the summer season,” he pointed out.

Escobar said projects related to vegetable and fruit production will be discussed further during a matchmaking event slated next month under the auspices of the Spanish embassy in Qatar.

“The matchmaking event involves a joint venture of Spanish companies that have designed the model greenhouse that is perfectly adapted to the difficult conditions of Qatar, which is not only hot but very humid.

“We will be bringing in all the possibilities in terms of fruits and vegetables, depending on what each producer wants to sell, including tomato, cucumber, pepper, zucchini, even strawberries and fruit berries that can be produced in the middle of August in Qatar using this new technology. You can produce it but not profitably, but with this technology, you can make money and run a profitable business,” Escobar said.