Oman looks to agriculture and fisheries as a means to import less

By Richard Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Food and agriculture organization Agriculture

Oman’s government might soon turn to agriculture and fisheries as part of its bid to reduce the country’s reliance on food imports.

The Supreme Council for Planning this week reviewed a plan by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries which valued Oman’s agriculture and fisheries production at around OMR560m (US$1.4bn) in 2015, and predicted that the figure would increase over coming years.

Stressing the need to boost food production, Fuad al Sajwani, the agriculture minister, called on the private sector to invest more. With three distinct climate zones and a decent livestock population, Oman has all the “necessary ingredients​” to increase production, he added.

Due to continuing government efforts to increase food production, Oman’s total area under cultivation rose by around 20% last year, and around 50 parcels of land were handed out to young Omanis on a pilot basis. If successful, the initiative will be mirrored through a total of 2,500 parcels across the country.

The government is also working on various other strategies to advance agriculture and farming by developing value chains, enhancing food security, creating jobs, and improving the competitiveness of Omani products. 

We have already completed work on two strategies. One is for the agriculture sector in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation [of the United Nations]. The second concerns the fisheries sector, which has been formulated with the support of the World Bank​,” Al Sajwani said.

The ministry’s plan aims to develop agriculture and aquaculture infrastructure by 2040.

One ambitious initiative to farm fish in the open seas off the North Al Batinah coast will begin next year with the launch of a pilot project involving an Omani enterprise, local fishing communities, and an American open ocean fish farming specialist.

Our goal is to implement a large-scale, sustainable aquaculture venture that can potentially meet 25% of Oman’s national production target for aquaculture​,” Warith al Kharusi, chief executive of Al Safwa Group, told the Oman Daily Observer​.

the venture will cover a 150-hectare area of sea some 15km off the Omani coast. Al Kharusi believes it will eventually provide 8,000 tonnes of amberjack, a high-value sashimi-grade fish coveted in Japan and the Far East, and also popular in Oman.

We have received a concession from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to develop this open ocean farming venture. Environmental impact assessment is ongoing, and so is our engagement with local communities, which is a critical part of our initiative,​” he added.

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