Interview: Saleh Mohammed Al Shanfari
How do you assess the performance of the fisheries and aquaculture sector moving into 2020, and what will be the main growth drivers?
SALEH MOHAMMED AL SHANFARI: The fisheries sector is growing at a substantial pace, driven by improved processing facilities, the use of higher-specification vessels and an influx of third-party shipowners who fish and land their catch in Oman. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) is a key driver of growth within the fisheries sector. The ministry, together with initiatives such as the fishing industrial zone in Duqm, will help boost growth in the years ahead. The goal of the fisheries and aquaculture sector is to create a profitable and ecologically sustainable contribution to the broader economy.
The aquaculture sector’s objectives are driven by the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development, which is providing the general guidelines for the promotion of aquaculture at the national level. This segment is currently taking significant strides in terms of research, development and extension, led by Oman Aquaculture Development Company. The advancement of technologies to protect indigenous species is also a priority, and the country is employing environmentally and socially responsible parameters set by the government. The MoAF’s Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy 2040 outlines the long-term scope and structure for investment in the aquaculture and fisheries sector.
Which products have potential for further expansion, and what specific projects are driving this?
AL SHANFARI: Oman has a range of fresh products that make the sector competitive, including dairy products, juices, ice cream, white and red meats, fish, bakery products, flour, table eggs, dates, and other fruits and vegetables. In the coming years we expect to see increases in volume and quality across a range of food products as producers move to compete on local and international markets. Projects currently under development include food logistics; fruit and vegetable production and marketing; date production and marketing; soya and canola oil production; and a food technology park, which will bring together universities and vocational colleges to incubate innovative food-related initiatives.
The food technology park, promoted by OFIC, will take ideas from conceptualisation to commercialisation, while a vaccine production facility will provide medications for the poultry, aquaculture and livestock sectors. This will boost local production capacity, create sustainable employment opportunities and position Oman as a major regional contributor to food production.
In what ways have infrastructure developments and the value-added tax (VAT) impacted food security?
AL SHANFARI: Infrastructure developments and improved road and port connectivity have allowed the local market to expand its footprint by facilitating imports and exports, while the increase in local food products has helped reduce the average cost of consumer goods especially given the high cost of imports. Any impact of VAT with respect to competition has to be managed with care. Food-related companies will continue to be supported, with a view to increasing local production and creating a competitive environment.
What types of practices can special economic zones (SEZs) adopt to further Oman’s aquaculture goals?
AL SHANFARI: For the most part, SEZs are continuing to develop. Oman’s location as a gateway for goods that are both imported into and exported from the Gulf region is a significant competitive advantage.
Advanced Customs clearance, time-driven sample inspections and improved customer service will lead to the more efficient and cost-effective movement of goods within all ports in Oman. Boosts in silo capacity at ports will also facilitate trade, allowing for increases in volume and for new companies within the sector to move into their operational phases in 2020 and beyond.
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