Qatar lists 'blockade' busting dairy farm on market

Doha (AFP) –


Baladna farms, which has led Qatar's charge for food self-sufficiency following a regional economic embargo, listed on Doha's stock exchange Wednesday after raising $390 million for three-quarters of the company.

When the Saudi-led boycott began in June 2017, Qatar responded with sweeping measures like liquidating a quarter of its cash reserves to steady the economy and its currency. Meanwhile, Baladna also flew in hundreds of Holstein cows.

The Riyadh-led alliance has accused Doha of backing Islamist groups and Tehran, issuing a raft of terms Qatar must accept before it will lift the embargo that includes a ban on direct air, land or sea trade.

Doha strongly denies the allegations and has refused to meet the demands that also stipulate the closure of its flagship state-run broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The new Baladna herd was part of a plan to establish food security in the event that import routes were blocked -- concerns that saw supermarket shelves emptied in the opening days of the embargo.

Baladna now meets more than 90 percent of the country's fresh dairy needs from its farms 55 kilometres (35 miles) north of Doha.

"This is really a proud day for Qatar, it proves that their strategy they envisioned a couple of years ago -- especially after the blockade -- was sound," Baladna chief executive Kamel Abdallah told AFP after a bell-ringing ceremony to mark the start of trading.

"It's a reflection of success, of resilience... to execute a very challenging project in record time."

The opening price hovered between the initial sale price of one riyal ($0.27) per share and 1.04 QAR in the first 15 minutes of trading after 9:30 am (0630 GMT).

The event was dwarfed by neighbouring Saudi Arabia's stock market listing of oil giant Aramco, also on Wednesday, but represents an important landmark for Qatar's fledgling food industry.

Abdallah also announced that the company had reversed an earlier decision not to pay a dividend in 2019 and would in fact be paying around 2.5 percent per share.