Qatar on Monday urged Gulf countries to reach a consensus on meat imports after Saudi Arabia banned European beef and mutton over fears of "mad cow" disease. Abdullah al-Hamaq, head of Doha Municipality's food control section, called on other GCC countries to reach a consensus on food imports in the light of several health scares.
Quoted by the English language Gulf Times, Hamaq said Qatar had sent a letter to the five other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries calling for "a meeting to discuss the issue in detail and take a joint decision".
Doha, which currently imports meat only from Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, was reacting to Riyadh's decision on Sunday to ban beef and mutton imports from all 15 European Union countries.
The Saudi commerce ministry justified the decision because of "some cases of trickery and plotting by some ministries in EU countries in exporting products from Britain, where mad cow disease initially surfaced".
"Given that the EU is a single market, it is difficult to control the movement of products and cargoes which could be contaminated and sold abroad," the ministry added.
The GCC countries ¯ Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ¯ periodically suspend meat imports from European and some African countries when news surfaces of a disease or epidemic affecting cattle. No official statistics on meat imports are available but the total GCC import market is estimated to be worth $60 billion. — (AFP, Doha)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )