Goal to elevate Oman into a regional food hub

A plethora of government agencies are working in concert to support Oman’s aspirations to evolve into a food hub for the wider region – a proposition that opens up the Sultanate to investment opportunities and food-related innovation, according to a key industry executive.

Eng Saleh Mohammed al Shanfari

Eng Saleh Mohammed al Shanfari (pictured), CEO – Oman Food Investment Holding Co (OFIC), the wholly government-owned food sector investment and development flagship, also held out the potential for the privatisation of government stakes in the expanding portfolio of subsidiaries promoted by OFIC. The underlying objective, he said, is to position the Sultanate as a destination for investment and innovation in the food and agribusiness catering to the wider region.

OFIC, now part of the newly restructured Oman Investment Authority, oversees a portfolio of over 10 food related ventures spanning the dairy, poultry, red meat, fisheries, logistics, and veterinary pharmaceutical segments of the industry, with investments topping $ 1billion.

“We are ready to look at privatisation and we are ready to invite private investors to take (stakes in our subsidiaries), because our role is to promote and develop projects,” said Al Shanfari. “Whoever comes to us with ideas, we will work together with other stakeholders to ensure the success of food-related projects in Oman. After all, Oman is planning to become the food hub for the region, and we welcome investors to join in our initiative.”

OFIC’s Chief Executive Officer made the appeal during a webinar hosted by The Business Year (TBY) last week.

A robust agribusiness environment thriving in the Sultanate has enabled investors across multiple segments of the food supply chain to work together and develop Oman into a food hub, said Al Shanfari.

“From the outset of the pandemic, there has no panic-buying of food in Oman because of the availability of foodstuff. We have worked together with Asyad Group, and various airlines and logistics companies, to position Oman as a food hub. To this end, we are also supporting the neighbouring countries to address their food requirements.  We want to be the food hub in the region, working with every country to bring their food here, process and package it, and re-export it. We will also extend all support to investors to market their products globally.”

Also as part of this goal, OFIC is supporting the development of a Food Technopark in Muscat, said the CEO.  “This concept will allow various players and stakeholders within and outside Oman to bring in new ideas. The Park will allow for ideation, conceptualisation and commercialisation – with help from Sultan Qaboos University, The Research Council, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, R&D agencies, as well as innovators and SMEs.”