We saw in recent years how countries worldwide became panicky following interruptions in food supply due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the conflicts in Eastern Europe, in addition to the increasing frequency and severity of climate shocks.
All these calamities have forced some countries to ban their food exports leading to their shortage and sky-high prices. Many countries, dependent on imports, especially those in the Gulf region, began purchasing food items, especially grains, at high prices to maintain domestic supplies.
This food scenario and the potential threat to its supplies should serve as a stark reminder to policymakers in countries dependent on others for the food supply of their vulnerability to food supply disruptions and price hikes.
In the event of another global catastrophe again, such as a pandemic or a significant geopolitical or ecological or environmental upheaval, countries which are overwhelmingly reliant on food imports, could be confronted with a serious threat to their growth and progress.
These countries should seek ways to insulate themselves to ensure food security in their respective countries. As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggests, “ensuring food security requires action in multiple dimensions”.
The governments, therefore, should ensure measures like improving the governance of food systems; responsible investments in agriculture and rural areas, in health and education; empowering small producers; and strengthening social protection mechanisms for risk reduction.
Oman is one of the countries in the Gulf region that has developed strategic planning and stringent policies to maintain its place as a food-secure nation. Self-sufficiency in food, as defined by decreased dependence on imports, continues to grow in the Sultanate.
This focus has seen the government increase domestic production, reducing its reliance on imports. By the end of 2040, it is set to achieve a target of food sufficiency of 100 per cent.
For this purpose, Oman’s leadership has developed a comprehensive food security strategy that sets forth a number of objectives seeking to enhance the country’s food basket in terms of production, import, storage and distribution. Chiming in on cue, the private sector is working side by side with different state entities in order to ensure food security.
The 2040 Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy in Oman aims to promote agricultural sector sustainability through investments, increase economic revenues, create job opportunities for nationals, support rural communities and limit structural imbalances in the agricultural sector.
Oman’s food security situation has improved tremendously during the recent past. The country has ranked third in the Arab world, 35th in the Global Food Security Index report for the year 2022. The index is based on evaluation criteria derived from the globally adopted elements of the concept of food security, namely, accessibility to food, food availability, food quality and safety, food sustainability and adaptation, and the comparison includes 113 countries.
The Omani government opts to encourage its citizens to produce and invest in agriculture and livestock fields by providing them with lands to establish economically viable projects. Efforts have also been directed towards improving and updating relevant laws and executive regulations that organise agricultural development activities and maintain the sustainability of agricultural production and food safety.