MUSCAT: An ambitious plan to unlock the immense agricultural and farming potential of the Najd area of Dhofar Governorate has been initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources.
The proposed Najd Agricultural Development Area – a vast arid swathe in the south of the Sultanate of Oman – is the subject of a major bid by the Ministry to harness its enormous agricultural capacity to strengthen the nation’s food security goals.
A competitive tender floated recently by the Ministry seeks the services of an international consultancy services firm to assist in the preparation of a comprehensive masterplan for the development of the Najd Agricultural Area.
The move comes amid a renewed focus on the Najd – both by government and private sector investors – as a largely untapped region for agricultural and farming related investments.
Barring a small number of enterprising Omani farmers who had undertaken small-scale cultivation and farming in this barren desert stretch in previous decades, the Najd’s potential has, of late, caught the eye of corporates and commercial farmers eager to tap into its promising potential. The successful start-up of large-scale operations, centring around dairy, poultry and fodder based activities, has also fuelled this upsurge of interest in the area.
Earlier this year, the Ministry set up a dedicated department to oversee the Najd’s development into the country’s newest agricultural and farming hub. It noted the need for an integrated approach to the Najd’s development, aimed at optimising agricultural and farming output from the area, developing the requisite infrastructure to attract investment inflows, and ensuring balanced and sustainable usage of its limited water resources – chiefly ancient aquifers.
The Ministry also stressed the importance of modern agricultural practices based on the use of green houses and related technologies, and opportunities to create employment prospects for nationals. The need for investments in cold chain infrastructure and marketing outlets was emphasised as well.
In recent months, officials of the Ministry, as well as the influential Oman Agricultural Association, have been sharing updates and images on some of the bountiful produce being harvested from the Najd.
In addition to an abundance of date palms, farmers have also been cultivating lemon, mango, grape, fig, garlic, onion, tomato, green pepper, eggplant and okra, among other fruits and vegetables. Wheat cultivation, for example has tripled to around 1,500 tonnes during the most recent season, up from around 500 tonnes a year earlier. Production of watermelon and muskmelon too has surged over the past year.
Furthermore, with the fertile coastal stretches of North and South Al Batinah prone to saline ingress, the Ministry has also been encouraging farmers to move their water-intensive fodder cultivation activities to the Najd.
Interested parties have until July 25, 2022 to submit firm bids for the tender.