To make the fisheries sector more sustainable and boost long-term food security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) has singled out aquaculture – commercial fish farming – as a priority segment for investment, creating opportunities for food businesses, investors and consultancy services. The ministry has identified a pipeline of 24 projects worth OR852.7m ($2.2bn) to develop the segment which, if carried out, would produce 293,000 tonnes of fish per year with a value of OR733m ($1.9bn).
CARRYING CAPACITY: Measured by production, the industry is still quite small. In 2016 it brought in a total catch of 103 tonnes, down from a 2013 peak of 353 tonnes and accounting for a fraction of a percent of Oman’s total fisheries production, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NSCI). However, after a recent series of tenders, the ministry estimates the segment could grow to as much as 220,000 tonnes per year by 2030 (including fish meal), bringing in $500m-900m a year.
In an effort to achieve this, the government – under guidance from the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation – set up the independent Agriculture and Fisheries Development Fund (AFDF) with an aquaculture component in 2004, bringing it under ministry supervision in June 2017. In 2014 it also founded the Oman Aquaculture Development Company (OADC) as a subsidiary of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Oman Investment Fund, to direct investment in fisheries projects, and cultivate foreign investors and expertise.
CURRENT PROJECTS: Of the 24 projects in the pipeline, the ministry is focusing on five to be launched in the 2017-18 period, with a combined production capacity of 13,100 tonnes. Several of these are already making progress. In May 2017 local firm Aljazeera Investment signed a OR12m ($31.2m) deal with domestic fishing company The Five Oceans to develop a 300,000-sq-metre aquaculture project producing abalone and hamour on the Shalim and Al Halaniyat Islands. Later that year, the ministry approved a commercial licence for the project, which now has a budget of OR45m ($116.9) to begin production in 2020. In a second project announced in November 2017, the Blue Waters Company began the first phase of aquaculture development in the wilaya (province) of Qurayyat capable of producing 3000 tonnes of koffer fish (long-finned sea bream), worth OR3m ($7.8m). Fish will be grown in 32 floating cages for 12-14 months until they are ready to harvest. The facility – built in a 1.7m-sq-metre area allotted by the Ministry of Housing in 2016 – will also include a land-based factory for processing and packing fish, and a unit for producing fish feed.
According to ministry estimates, aquaculture could produce as much as 220,000 tonnes of fish and fish meal by 2030, bringing in $500m-900m a year Fish packing and aquaculture facilities are especially important. “Oman has the potential of becoming one of the Arabian Peninsula’s main suppliers of canned seafood,” Osama Maryam, CEO of Al Hosn Investment Company told OBG. To bolster Oman’s aquaculture capacities, two later phases are to be carried out in nearby villages of Bima and Dhabab, boosting total output to 9000 tonnes per year.
As of late 2017 three projects remained in the planning stages: one in Jalan Bani Bu Ali to produce 4500 tonnes of white prawns, one in Duqm to farm 1500 tonnes of grouper and 1000 tonnes of sea cucumbers, and one in Sur producing 600 tonnes per year of barramandi. According to global law firm Dentons, as of August 2017 the government had awarded 19 licences for aquaculture projects totalling investments of OR128m ($332.4m).
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