Qatar - Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards
The State of Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Dubai covers Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE (also known as the GCC-5).
Food Standards: In 2008, Yemen became the newest member to Gulf Standards Organization (GSO), bringing the number of GSO member countries to seven. GSO is responsible for developing food and non food standards in the GCC. The GSO food standards committee, which is chaired by Qatar, has been actively updating GCC food standards. Over the past few years, the committee has been working to harmonize existing standards within the guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius, ISO and other international organizations. However, in some cases, differences still exist between some of the proposed new standards and existing international guidelines.
In theory, each GCC member should notify the WTO of any proposed new standard. However, typically, one or two of the member countries usually submit the notification. Interested parties who review these notifications should bear in mind that, while a notification may be submitted by a single GCC member, the proposed standard will eventually apply to all GCC member countries. Once a new standard is approved by the GSO food standards committee, each member country officially adopts the standard, thus making it a national standard as well as a GSO standard.
The first GSO shelf life and labeling standards were issued in the nineties. In 2007, the first review of both standards was completed and approved. The standards brought the GCC into closer compliance with the guidelines of Codex Alimentarius and, for the most part, offer more flexible requirements for importing foods from foreign markets.
In 2011, another review of the standards was completed and notified by Bahrain to the TWO. The new draft standards with limited changes to the existing standards are being studied by WTO member countries.