Interview: Saleh Mohammed Al Shanfari
What specific food-related sectors offer the most sustainable opportunities for investment?
SALEH MOHAMMED AL SHANFARI: undefined The agri-food sector offers sustainable long-term opportunities to local and international investors. The government’s drive to diversify away from oil and gas, along with a desire to increase self-sufficiency in terms of food-related products, are the driving forces at a national level. Oman is developing as a food hub, which will both meet its needs and allow for exports to the GCC, Africa and South-east Asia, where there is significant demand for high-quality food products. Oman’s geographical location is an advantage to establishing food-related industries. Increasing consumption and the desire for improved nutrition are also important factors. Road transport, port development, fishery harbour development, marine biotechnology, animal vaccine production, grain trading and inbound and outbound logistics are areas that will continue to provide opportunities for investment.
How significant are the opportunities for further downstream processing and value addition in the food and agriculture industry?
AL SHANFARI: The baseline for the whole industry is to establish core farms together with their immediate support infrastructure. A natural progression is to take those industries downstream to add value to the various products delivered to customers. At OFIC we are excited by the proposition of creating that value addition within the range of companies we work with.
OFIC will also support those companies that wish to invest in downstream activities we have not invested in ourselves. We do not seek control over investors; OFIC’s sole aim is to create a sustainable and attractive food sector that supports Oman, creates further job opportunities for our citizens, encourages inbound technology transfer and contributes to developing the country into an efficient and effective food producer.
What impact will the Duqm Special Economic Zone have on the development of fisheries?
AL SHANFARI: The intention is to develop the fishery harbour in Duqm and create a fishery industrial zone, one of the goals of which will be to service the ever-increasing catch. The extension of the fishery economic zone is currently under way and will further enhance available fish stocks.
The development of the aquaculture industry in Oman will also add to the processing activities undertaken in Duqm. Oman intends to invest in a fishing fleet that will create jobs for fishermen in the country and increase the volume of fish caught and processed locally. Duqm has the potential to evolve into a global fish storage and processing centre.
How could the sultanate improve on its 2018 global ranking of 29th and regional ranking of third in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI)?
AL SHANFARI: The GFSI is a meter on which we seek to improve on an annual basis. The projects promoted by OFIC will come onstream by mid-2019 and will then be ramped up to full production over the coming years. Infrastructural investment will in turn increase local production across the dairy, poultry, red meat and fishery sectors, as well as related areas. Complementary industries will also emerge in different regions within Oman, further enhancing our performance on the food security index. The overarching goal is to produce more food, leading to better quality, halal-derived products that have higher nutritional values.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) is the government body responsible for quality improvements in fishery practices, and to this end it is currently running several important initiatives in this area. OFIC associates and subsidiary companies have a vested interest in working to support quality improvements within the fishery sector. One of our goals is thus to work closely with MAF in this regard.
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