Why Qatar is raising cows in the desert

STEP inside, and it could be a scene from the English countryside or the American heartland: one hundred well-fed dairy cows spinning slowly on a circular milking parlour. But outside there are no green fields, only sand. Baladna (“Our Country”) is a dairy farm in the desert, 50km from Doha, the Qatari capital. Behind the milking house is the din of construction. Hundreds of labourers are working to expand the farm, building new barns and installing fans and misters to cool them. “None of this was here a year ago,” says John Dore, the Irishman who manages the place.

There was no need for it. Until June Qatar imported milk from Almarai, a Saudi conglomerate. Then Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states closed their borders to punish Qatar for supporting Islamist groups and Al Jazeera, a state-owned broadcaster that criticises all the Gulf monarchies except Qatar’s. Overnight the world’s richest country (measured by income per head at purchasing-power parity) was cut off from its food supplies….

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