In April, Unilever opened two new tea factories in Doha, Qatar, with sufficient capacity to supply growing local markets.
The Middle East is not far behind Asia Pacific in tea consumption leading Unilever to expand its capacity in Qatar. Regionally Turkey, Kuwait, Iran and the United Arab Emerites have some of the highest per capita consumption in the world. Dubai is the world’s largest re-exporter of tea and home to Unilever’s second largest tea production facility, producing 1.2 million tea bags per hour (or 6 billion tea bags per year).
Inaugurated by the Qatar Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari on April 28, the high-volume factories are located in the New Industrial Area of Doha, a neighborhood that features advanced infrastructure and logistics. The factories will be managed by the Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company with two production lines—one to cater to hospitality (5 kilogram packs for stores, cafes and restaurants) and another for the retail market (producing volumes of 200 grams, 450 grams and 950 grams).
In Qatar, like much of the Middle East, black tea is the tea of choice, with Unilever’s Lipton and Red Label making up more than two thirds of the domestic market. High per capita consumption led the ministry to push for their own packaging plant. At the launch, Al Kuwari was quoted as saying, “The opening of the plant is one of the fruits of Qatar’s ongoing efforts to achieve partnership with the private sector and support them and encourage them to contribute to the national economy and achieve value addition.”
In 2016, the government ended the import monopoly on 35 household items, including tea. Opening the market to outside vendors brought down prices. In 2018, Qatar’s tea imports were valued at $15.9 million, most of which is imported packet tea.
The launch of the new factory is considered part of the country’s move towards self-sufficiency, especially in food. Qatar’s National Vision 2030 has been in progress since its launch in 2008, to “transform Qatar into an advanced society capable of achieving sustainable development.”
Unilever, the parent company to Lipton, recently closed its factory in Vorst, Belgium to consolidate operations in Katowice, Poland.