Saudi Arabia wants to punish the tiny country of Qatar, with a total population of 2 million and officially the world's richest per capita nation. Qatar, according to three of its neighbors, is too supportive of Islamists and the media outfit Al Jazeera.
Overnight Qatar's dairy exports dried up. So what does a rich country do when its grocery shelves are bare? They air freighted in 3,400 Holstein dairy cows to Doha in 2017. More have already arrived in 2018 by boat and by the end of this year, a massive new confinement factory farm, in the desert, will have 14,000 cows producing enough dairy to fulfill the entire country's needs. Feedstuffs are more stable and easier to import than milk. Those 14,000 cows will eat 700,000 pounds of forage and grain per day, drink more than 200,000 gallons of water per day, and excrete nearly 1 million pounds of manure and urine per day. That's 3656 million pounds per year, which would fill about 7,000 tractor trailers.
In this incredibly rich (oil wealth) country, fixing the blockade was technically feasible. But what if it had not been crazy rich? What if it were your neighborhood?
The fact that Qatar opted to build its own dairy farm in a desert rather than shop around for other imports speaks volumes to the localization food security debate. Intellectuals routinely scorn and deride those of us who preach food localization; not for everything, but for the big things. I doubt that five years ago anyone in Qatar thought that very soon something as common as milk, cheese, and yoghurt would be literally ungettable in the richest country in the world.
Everything worth doing cannot be measured in hard currency. Sometimes it's just good common sense. A region that cannot feed itself is more vulnerable and more fragile than one that can. A home without a larder is more vulnerable and fragile than one with a stash of nutrient-dense food.
If your region got blockaded, what would you want self-sufficiency in first?