MUSCAT, MAY 4 - In a strategic decision, the Oman Investment Authority (OIA) – the integrated sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman – has said it is gearing up to assume responsibility for the operations and management of the Million Dates Palms Plantation Project with a view to harnessing its commercial potential to enhance economic diversification, support job creation, drive SME development in line with Oman’s Vision 2040.
The move, which is backed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, is designed to maximize the benefits from this project by optimizing value creation, contributing to enhancing Oman's food security, creating partnership opportunities with the private sector, and enabling Omanis farmers to play a key role in its development.
Abdulsalam bin Mohammed al Murshidi, Head of the OIA, said responsibility for managing the Million Date Palms Project will be entrusted to its wholly owned subsidiary, Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), which has the requisite expertise, integrated resources and qualified staff to manage world-class assets and facilities of various types of food industries and at different stages of the supply chain.
Dr Saud bin Hamoud al Habsi, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, said the Authority’s takeover of management of the Million Date Palms Project would lead to a qualitative improvement in agricultural practices in the Sultanate, given especially the comprehensive and integrated expertise of the Oman Food Investment Holding Company.
Further, with farmers and private sector companies now being brought on board in improving date palm cultivation, there is greater assurance that the underlying objectives behind the Million Date Palms Project will be achieved. One such objective, he noted, is enhancing food security, which the ministry is keen to strengthen.
The Ministry’s will also support the endeavour through the provision of high-value and high-yield date palm species to replace non-commercial perennial palm, thus ensuring better economic returns for farmers engaged in this project.
Tariq bin Ali al Amri, Chairman of Oman Food Investment Holding Company, said its task is to review the performance of the existing date palm plantations with a view to converting them into independent profit centres before they are handed over to the private sector for effective management and commercialization.
OFIC will also purchase date produced by the farmers participating in the initiative and ensure the sustainability of the project across various stages of production.
The Million Date Palms Project launched with the aim of achieving socioeconomic returns on date palm cultivation through the application of the latest scientific developments in agricultural processes, commercialization of dates through modern processing and innovative value-adding techniques and enhancement of the competitiveness of Omani dates in foreign markets.
Initiated in 2017, hundreds of thousands of date palms have been planted in 11 sprawling farms distributed across the Sultanate. Output is projected at around 50,000 tons of dates per annum in the first phase of operations, rising to 85,000 tons by 2034.
(With inputs from ONA)