Buying and Selling

flag Qatar Qatar: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
International Economic Cooperation
Member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The country is also part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area(GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area. 

Non Tariff Barriers

Qatar has no import quotas, however, non-tariff barriers arise occasionally.

  • For instance, unlicensed military and security items are not allowed.  Furthermore, a ban on pork was maintained until late 2011 but was lifted in 2012. The sale of pork remains heavily regulated and sales are restricted to only one distribution point managed by the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC).
  • With certain exceptions, Qatar’s foreign investment law limits foreign ownership of local entities to 49% of the entity’s capital. However, foreign investors may own 100% of an entity’s capital in sectors such as agriculture, industry, health care, education, tourism, and the exploitation and development of natural resources subject to approval by the Government of Qatar. Foreign investors must receive permission from the Government of Qatar to invest in the banking and insurance sectors.  
  • Foreign investment is not allowed in commercial agencies and real estate, although there are limited opportunities for foreigners to own interest (and have rights in land use) in select residential real estate projects for a term of 99 years renewable upon government approval.
  • Bank loans are based on market terms with priority given to local organizations for the purpose of public development projects.
  • Qatar gives preferential treatment to suppliers using local content in bids for government procurement. Bids for government contracts that contain goods with Qatari content are discounted by 10% and goods from other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council receive a 5% discount. 
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
In accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Customs Union, outlined in Law No. 41/2002 and implemented as the GCC Unified Customs Law on January 1, 2003, Qatar imposes a 5% ad valorem tariff on the cost, insurance and freight (C.I.F.) invoice value of most imported products, including food products.
There remain some exceptions and limitations when importing into Qatar :
-    The GCC has approved exemptions for approximately 400 goods (including basic food products such as live animals, fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, wheat, flour, rice, feed grains, spices, seeds for planting and powdered milk), diplomatic and consular imports, military and security products, civilian aviation, personal effects and used household items, passenger accompanied luggage and gifts, goods destined for charitable use, ships and other vessels for the transport of passengers and floating platforms, and products to be used for industrial projects.  
-    Customs duties of 30 % are levied on imports of urea and 15 % on imports of records and musical instruments.  
-    Pork and pork products are illegal under Qatari law.  
-    Tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are subject to a 100 % import duty.  

Note that projects funded by the Qatar Industrial Development Bank (QIDB) can be granted a customs duty waiver for the import of machinery, raw materials, and other industrial inputs.

Customs Classification
Qatar is a member of the World Customs organisation and does comply with the harmonised customs system.
Import Procedures
All importers are required by law to have an import licence. Import licences are issued only to Qatari nationals, or to the Qatari partner in a limited liability partnership. These licences must be registered with the Ministry of Business and Trade. The same applies to wholly foreign-owned entities operating in Qatar; however foreign-owned businesses in Qatar must have a Qatari partner. Imported meats, including beef and poultry products, require a health certificate issued by the country of export and a 'Halal' slaughter certificate issued by an approved Islamic centre in that country. In order to clear goods from customs zones at ports or land boundaries, importers must submit certain documents including a detailed customs declaration, bill of lading, certificate of origin, pro forma invoice and import licence. Information on specific requirements should be obtained from the Customs and Ports General Authority. Inspection of goods is generally conducted at customs stations or as directed by the Director-General, in the presence of the owner or his representative.
Importing Samples
There are no specific procedures for samples shipments. Sample shipments require the same set of documents as a normal shipment. The value of goods should still appear on the commercial invoice indicating "for customs clearance purpose only'' on the invoice. Zero value invoices are not acceptable.
For Further Information
Qatar Customs Department

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
Qatar has a population of 2.64 million (Planning and Statistics Authority of Qatar, 2021), however, it is mainly comprised of expats as Qatari citizens were no more than 333,000 in 2019 (Priya Dsouza Communications, latest data available). The population (and thus the customer base) has tripled in the decade up to 2011.
The median age of the population is 33.7 years. In terms of age structure, the group between 0-14 years represents 12.84% of the population, the one 15-24 years 11.78%, 25-54 years 70.66%, 55-64 years 3.53% and 65 years and around 1.19% (CIA World Factbook, 2020 est.). The totality of Qatari consumers are urban dwellers: the country has an urbanization rate among the highest in the world, at 99.2% in 2020 (CIA World Factbook).

Qatar has the highest level of GDP per capita in the world, estimated at USD 59.140 in 2021 (IMF). Such high levels of national wealth have helped to underpin the development of a strong retail market, nevertheless, inequalities are still evident.
In recent years the cost of living has grown significantly, fueled by high rental rates. The large presence of expats has influenced the products on offer in many retail establishments.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia and an array of other Arab countries abruptly cut all diplomatic relations with Qatar, impacting the country’s retail market. However, this issue, which was one of the most severe diplomatic crises in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, ended in January 2021 when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Consumer Behaviour
In general, for Qatari consumers price is the key factor when making a purchase decision, and they actively seek sales and promotions whenever possible. However, consumers also take into consideration the quality of goods and services offered and are willing to try new products: the new-to-market status of goods could offer a competitive advantage.
Qatar is one of the biggest markets in the world for luxury products, and this trend is expected to continue in the next years. Fashion involvement, brand consciousness and social comparison have a significant impact on consumers’ attitude toward luxury brands.
Qatari consumers seek reviews and comments before considering purchasing a product or service, as in general they trust other consumers feedbacks more than advertising campaigns. Currently, advertisements in newspapers are the most common way to promote food and other fast-moving consumer goods.

Qatar is also trying to expand its e-commerce market as the country has many of the key ingredients for a favourable online market: a population with high levels of disposable income, a strong and secure ICT infrastructure, and a highly connected society. In fact, Qatar has been ranked number one in the world in 2020 in terms of internet penetration, with a rate of 99% (Digital Report 2020, We Are Social).
Prior to Covid-19, consumers still generally shopped in-store, due to questions of cultural affiliation, ease of access to modern shopping malls, and because they preferred to see the product and interact with a salesperson, who could provide them with direct information before making a purchase. In 2020, e-commerce activity in Qatar has increased significantly as a result of the restrictions imposed on consumers and retailers by the Covid-19 pandemic. Qatar's e-commerce industry is projected to jump from QAR 4.7 billion (US$1.3 billion) to QAR 12 billion (US$3.2 billion) by 2022 (USDA).
While e-commerce is rising, having a local representative is still the most effective way to reach the consumer base. Foreign companies are not allowed to directly market to the Qatari consumer base without registering as an entity in Qatar and acquiring local representation.
Consumers Associations
Qatari Consumer Protection Department (Ministry of Economy and Commerce)
Main Advertising Agencies
Al Mana Media
Whyte Creations
Krom Group
Al Mana Media

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
According to Alpen Capital, the Qatari retail market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% reaching $284.5 billion in 2018, the fastest in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. The government has ambitious plans to develop its retail landscape to meet the rising demand of the growing population’s high level of personal consumption. Key projects already underway include the Mall of Qatar, Doha Festival City and Place Vendome.

The continued low oil price means the Qatari Government is seeing its state revenues decline. As such, the country is actively seeking foreign and private sector investment, in order to better respond to this factor. The development of the retail sector will help to shore up its economy and presents excellent opportunities for foreign investors, especially in the luxury retail. In 2015, the country was ranked as the fourth most attractive retail market according to the Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), placing it first in the Middle East.

Recent government initiatives have already helped to pique investment interest among foreign companies. Plans to pass a law to introduce the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) by the end of 2016 is believed to be a positive move which will likely attract further foreign investment. PPPs are seen as a feasible alternative to more traditional procurement models and will allow private investors to take stakes in projects along with the government, bearing part of the risk and sharing profits.

Qatar’s rapidly growing population, coupled with its strong purchasing power per capita are strong fundamentals driving the growth of the retail sector. The country’s affinity for luxury goods has already triggered entry plans by high-end retailers, and we expect more brands will follow suit given an additional one million square metres of retail space is scheduled to be added in Doha in the coming years. Foreign investors definitely stand to gain from Qatar’s burgeoning retail market.
Market share
The Government of Qatar is the biggest end-user of a wide range of products and services. The government procurement process is based on standard tender procedures.  A foreign supplier wishing to participate in government tenders may appoint a local commercial agent.
According to Euromonitor, private supermarkets account for the vast majority of retail sales, and this sector is currently expanding. In this way, the main players are:

  • Carrefour with both hypermarkets and supermarkets (Carrefour market) in most of the shopping malls (City Center, Villagio, Ezden Mall, Lagoona Mall, Salam Mall)
  • Lulu Hypermarket with big stores and a good electronic appliance mix of products
  • Mega Mart with a large assortment of imported products
  • Monoprix with a large range of food products (50% of the store) and cosmetics products.
  • Al Meera Group in a partnership with the french Géant

According to the International Trade Administration, the following distribution channel was in place in 2020: the importer/agent sells to private supermarkets (60%), cooperatives (20%), institutional users (10%) and wholesalers and convenience stores (5%).

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Internet access
Qatar has been ranked number one in the world in terms of internet penetration rate for the period between January 2017 and January 2018. According to the "Digital in 2018" report, with over 2.6 million internet users Qatar has 99% internet penetration rate. The country’s smartphone penetration has reached 75%, with the usage being mostly concentrated within the 15-34 age group, split evenly between males and females (Qatari Ministry of Transport and Communications). The most popular web search engines in Qatar are Google (97%), Bing and Yahoo (1.5% and 1.1% respectively).
E-commerce market
Figures released by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) revealed that Qatar’s e-commerce market is expected to grow from US$ 1.3 billion in 2017 to US$ 3.2 billion in the next five years. In 2017 the e-commerce market already grew by 14% compared to the previous year. Travel, electronics and fashion are the main product categories purchased online. Famous websites for online shopping are, and Cash on delivery is the preferred payment method (75%), followed by credit card (19%) and other services like PayPal (6%) (Go-Gulf). With 2.4 million users, Qatar has one of the highest social media penetration rates in the world, according to a report by Hootsuite. Qatar also had the highest percentage of any population using social media through mobile devices (around 95%). Most internet users in Qatar use WhatsApp (93%) and about two-thirds use Instagram and Snapchat (70% and 64%, respectively, according to MidEastMedia). Fewer than one in four Qatari internet users use Facebook (23%).

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
The two most useful forms of transporting good are via ship or airplane.
New Port Project
Qatar Ports Management Company
Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways Cargo
Sea Transport Organisations
Qatar Ports Managament Company
Air Transport Organisations
Civil Aviation Agency
Road Transport Organisations
Qatar Public Works Authority 'Ashghal'
Ministry of Transport and Communications
Rail Transport Organisations
Qatar Rail

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
The industrial sector makes up 50,3% of the total GDP according to 2017 estimates. The main industries are liquefied natural gas, crude oil production and refining, ammonia, fertilisers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars, cement and commercial ship repair. The only petroleum company operating in the country is the state owned Qatar petroleum. Despite the dominance of oil and natural gas, Qatar has made significant gains in strengthening non-oil sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, and financial services, leading non-oil GDP to steadily rise in recent years to just over half of the total. The services sector accounts for 49,5% of the total GDP, and the remaining 0,2% belongs to agricultre.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories - Qatar business directory
Online Qatar - Qatar business directory
Qatar Business Directory - Qatar business directory
Qatar Chamber - Qatar business directory
Qatar Chamber - Qatar Chamber commercial and industrial directory
Qatar Contact - Qatar business directory
Qatar Online Directory - Database of Qatari companies
Qatar Yellow - Qatar business directory
Qatar Yellow Pages - Qatar business directory

To search directories by industry in Qatar, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
24 professional associations listed for Qatar.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Qatar's International Chamber of Commerce
Ministry of Economy and Commerce
Ministry of Energy and Industry
General Professional Associations
Qatar's Chamber of Commerce

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Latest Update: March 2024