All regulatory information for exporting wine to Qatar, including the regulatory environment, duties and taxes, and permitted additives.
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Yemen joined the GCC in 2010. In 2003, the GCC implemented a Customs Union to reduce the trade barriers and remove the import tariff between GCC member states and to provide a common external import tariff for goods imported from non-GCC countries. Alcohol is one of the few products not covered by this common tariff rate as it is a sensitive item and prohibited in some GCC member states.
Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the GCC commenced in July 2007, however, the Council has paused its trade negotiations with all partners pending a review of its trade agreement policy. An Australia-GCC FTA is a priority for the Australian Government.
As a Muslim country, alcohol is a highly sensitive product in Qatar.
Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol and the Qatar government strictly controls the alcohol market. It is illegal to drink alcohol openly in the country with consumption restricted to hotels and bars or at home. Drunk driving, public intoxication and other alcohol-related offences can result in imprisonment, fines or deportation.
Nevertheless, there has been a noticeable push by major alcoholic drinks makers into the Gulf region lured by the vast youth population and large expatriate community undaunted by the heavy restrictions on drinkers in Muslim countries.
The only liquor store in Qatar is the government controlled Qatar Distribution Company in Doha which is permitted to import alcohol. Expatriates must have a permit to purchase alcohol for personal consumption. The permit requires a letter from an employer confirming the applicant’s position, salary, accommodation, religious affiliation, marital status, valid passport and residency permit and must be lodged with a 1000 Riyal deposit.
Alcohol may also be purchased on premise in selected hotel bars and clubs in Qatar; however, customers are required to show their permit or their passport in the case of tourists in order to purchase alcohol and it must be strictly consumed on the premises. The Qatar government has clamped down on alcohol sales in recent years. Doha’s luxurious Pearl development opened in 2011 but the Qatar government withdrew the alcohol permit just months after its opening resulting in closures for many of the up-market restaurants.
Alcohol may not be brought into Qatar, however, alcohol may be purchased at Duty Free stores at the airport on the way out of the country. The re-sale or gifting of alcohol is strictly illegal in Qatar. Drinking in hotels during the month long Ramadan is also strictly prohibited, however, alcohol permits for at-home consumption are tripled during the observance for the expatriate community.
Qatar’s uneasy relationship with alcohol is set to be amplified as the tiny gas-rich Gulf state won the right to host soccer’s World Cup in 2022. Questions on how the Muslim country will deal with the influx of fans are still to be answered with the FIFA secretary general announcing that alcohol is a non-negotiable aspect of the World Cup and pushing for the right to sell it to be enshrined in law.
Statistics published by the Qatar Foreign Trade System suggest Australia is the eighth largest exporter to Qatar by both volume and value. France is the leading exporting while wine imported from the United Kingdom (presumably bulk wine imported and bottled in market) is the second largest exporter. Indian wines compete well in the Qatar market, arguably due to the largest expat community living in the country.
New exporters to the market should obtain advice from Austrade on doing business with the Middle East as cultural and religious differences are extremely important to understand.