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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Sultanate of Oman’s food projects are modelled on circular economy design

Synergies: Energy – food sector nexus can help support carbon management in the country
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@conradprabhu -


Food security projects being conceived and delivered by Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), the food investment and development arm of the Omani government, are increasingly driven by the principles of the circular economy to ensure they are not only sustainable, but can also help position the Sultanate of Oman as a food hub for the wider region.


According to a high-level official of wholly government-owned OFIC, an affiliate of Oman Investment Authority (OIA) – the Sultanate’s integrated sovereign wealth fund, the circular design of the company’s projects helps enhance efficiency and output, while also reducing harmful environmental impacts.


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“In the food system we are developing in the Sultanate of Oman, we are trying to make sure we are a responsible investor that is caring for society and the environment, while making sure that more food is produced more for less,” said Eng Saleh al Shanfari (pictured), Group CEO. “Currently, most agro food is produced through linear methods, which ignore circularity as a major drive.”

Speaking during a recent webinar organised by Gulf Intelligence on the theme, ‘Food Energy – Water Nexus?’, the official cited the example of OFIC’s flagship investment – the RO 100 million Mazoon Dairy project in Al Buraimi Governorate – as a testament to the group’s circular economy based project design.


“Mazoon Dairy is an example of project design circularity at its best in the Omani food production context,” Eng Al Shanfari said. “The bioreactor installed at site is the first of its kind in the dairy sector in the region, while the biogas plant is the first in the country. Both are a demonstration of the possibilities to harness energy from biogas, converting harmful gases into energy and useful nutrients, capturing and reusing water, and so on.”


Oman Food Investment is currently overseeing a portfolio of food security related investments in excess of $1 billion, spanning multiple sectors of the food economy and extending across the value chain. Over the next five years, new projects involving capital investments of a further $1.2 billion are anticipated in an array of strategic food areas.


In his comments, Al Shanfari underlined the potential for the food sector to work in collaboration with energy companies to help support the country manage its output of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.


“We can look at the potential to convert carbon into food,” said the official. “Oil & Gas companies can become carbon companies and work with the food sector. For example, captured carbon can be injected into greenhouses to speed up cultivation of fruits and vegetables. We can transform the industry by building the nexus together.”


Al Shanfari rejected any suggestion that OFIC’s food projects benefit from government subsidy. “The notion of subsidy coming from an abundance of oil resources does not reflect the way we do business today,” he stressed. “In the food sector, we have moved away from government subsidy to make sure the projects we develop are self-sustainable and bankable, which will also make the Sultanate of Oman a food hub for the region.”


This underlying philosophy is also helping strengthen the Sultanate of Oman’s food security objectives, the Group CEO noted. “The country has already secured the second rank in food security in the Arab world and 32nd globally. Indeed, food supply wasn’t disrupted during the Covid pandemic: there was no panic buying or shelves running short, which affirmed the resilience of the country’s food reserves system,” he added.


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