Interview: Mohammed Al Harthy
Where do you identify investment opportunities in the agriculture sector?
MOHAMMED AL HARTHY: Players in the domestic agriculture industry have placed a significant emphasis on ensuring food security, thus presenting substantial prospects for local entities within the agri-food segment, including for our newly rebranded organisation, Nitaj. Nitaj aims to bridge the gap between food companies, investors and relevant parties by fostering synergies to improve food security, as well as enhance the sultanate’s economic prosperity through investment in domestic and international food-related endeavours.
The food industry in Oman provides numerous investment opportunities across various segments, including poultry, fisheries, red meat, dairy and agriculture, with substantial growth prospects. The country is collaborating with both local and international partners to drive transformation and fully leverage the sector’s potential through collaboration. How are research, development and innovation (RDI) helping to generate business opportunities for local businesses in agriculture?
AL HARTHY: Identifying the most suitable crops and grains for use in Oman is of utmost importance. By attracting foreign investment and establishing partnerships in the agriculture sector, we not only gain access to necessary expertise and knowledge, but also create opportunities for the development of locally driven agri-tech innovations.
RDI is essential for Oman to distinguish itself and take on a significant role in the agriculture sector, particularly in food production. Maximising production through the optimal utilisation of local water resources is vital given the country’s climatic conditions throughout the year. Furthermore, RDI will generate growth opportunities for local businesses. With this in mind, Nitaj established the Food Techno Park as a joint venture with local stakeholders and partners, with a focus on RDI and agri-tech. In what ways can the local agriculture sector contribute to job creation?
AL HARTHY: A decline in the agricultural labour force has been observed globally over the past decade. It will be imperative to leverage technology in order to overcome this shortage, as well as sustain the growth and development of the sector. This is crucial for building a robust agriculture industry, mitigating labour deficiencies and attaining self sufficiency. Implementing RDI initiatives can enhance productivity while reducing expenses.
In Oman there is a growing entrepreneurial trend among young people who are seeking to start their own businesses instead of pursuing traditional employment. This is a positive development, as young Omanis are showing interest in applying cutting-edge technology to approach agriculture in unique ways and meet local market demands. This will lead to an increase in the production of value-added products, generating income and fulfilling the objectives outlined in Oman Vision 2040.
To what extent can the agriculture sector act as a catalyst for investment?
AL HARTHY: Oman’s agriculture sector has been attracting the attention of foreign investors, with the potential to boost foreign direct investment. The government aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food production and the sector could play a key role in achieving this goal. Nevertheless, challenges need to be overcome, particularly in relation to the environment and the scarcity of water resources that hinder crop cultivation. Despite these challenges, the country remains open to exploring investment opportunities beyond its borders in pursuit of food security in the region and international markets.