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Qatar Cargo’s 4,000-cow airlift flaunts Saudi blockade

In light of last month’s decision by Saudi Arabia and its allies to impose a blockade on exports to Qatar, the Qataris appear to be ready to hold out until the cows come home — literally.

Qatar is moving fast and sparing no expense in their efforts to cut Saudi Arabia out of the country’s food supply chain, confirming yesterday that the national carrier, Qatar Airways Cargo, was flying cows in for domestic dairy production, and that the bovine airlift would reach 4,000 head.

The ongoing airlift is perhaps the biggest test of Qatar Cargo’s QR Live product. “Our dedicated team at Qatar Airways Cargo is well-trained and our QR Live product is fully-compliant with IATA’s Live Animal Regulations to ensure safe and comfortable air transportation of live animals,” said Ulrich Ogiermann, Qatar Airways’ chief cargo officer.

Qatar 777F

This week, Qatar’s government gave the impression that it was preparing for a long standoff. “We can live forever like this,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in Doha last week.

Moutaz al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, which is behind the massive undertaking, told Bloomberg News that it may take 60 flights to deliver all the cows, at a cost of US$8 million. Once operational two months hence, al Khayyat expects to meet up to 35 percent of domestic dairy demand.

Qatar’s climate is the last place one would expect a herd of Holsteins this size. It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach a scorching 50˚C (122˚F) in the summer. So, while this project is a drop in the bucket in terms of food security, it’s a clear message to the Saudi’s that Qatar can outspend the cash-strapped royals to the west.

In total, the cargo carrier will charter more than 20 cattle shipments from Europe, the United States and Australia in the next few weeks.

Qatar Airways Cargo has undertaken a massive airlift of food and grocery items in response to the Saudi-lead blockade that was initiated by neighboring countries on 5 June due to reports that it was supporting terrorism. The Qataris have denied these allegations. Beyond accusations leveled by both sides regarding support for extremist organizations, the underlying motivation for the diplomatic meltdown appears to be an unwillingness by the Qataris to adhere to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to isolate Iran, and a general unwillingness to play along with Saudi Arabia’s regional hegemony.


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