Muscat, SEPT 16 – After a roughly five-year-long hiatus, construction work on the Sultanate’s first sugar refinery project is set to commence in earnest at Sohar Port and Freezone in the coming weeks, according to high-level official. Mark Geilenkirchen, CEO, Sohar Port and Freezone, said the long anticipated project will anchor a wider Food Cluster taking shape at the industrial port. “The groundbreaking on the sugar refinery will take place (shortly),” Geilenkirchen told the Observer, adding that other key components of the Food Cluster, including a flour mill and grain silo complex, are in various stages of implementation as well.
When it was first unveiled in April 2013, the proposed sugar refinery project was greeted with much excitement primarily for two reasons: firstly, the venture was hailed as the Sultanate’s first sugar refinery, and secondly, it was set to serve as the cornerstone of a new cluster taking shape at the industrial port centring around food and agro-related investments.
Oman Sugar Refinery Company (OSRC), promoted by Tanzanian-based Omani businessman Nasser bin Ali al Hosni, is developing the world-scale plant on a waterfront location at Sohar Port. Total investment in the venture is estimated at $250 million.
Project plans, as revealed by the promoters back in 2013, envisage a capacity of 700,000 tonnes per annum of refined sugar in the first phase, ramping up to 1 million tonnes per annum within three years. The company had already signed a lease with Sohar Port and Freezone for a roughly 180,000 sq mt site.
In June 2015, OSRC announced the signing of a design and construction agreement with China Light Industrial Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technical Cooperation for the execution of the project.
According to officials, the implementation of the sugar refinery will accelerate investments in food-related processing and ancillary ventures that are dependent on the availability of cheap sugar as a key ingredient. All of these investments will either be housed in the Food Cluster located within the industrial port or in the adjoining Freezone.
Also called the Agro-Cluster, this new investment zone materialising at the port also includes a 500-tonnes-per-day capacity grain mill owned and operated by Sohar Flour Mills. The facility is nearing completion, according to Geilenkirchen.
Also making headway in its development is a grain silo complex — one of the largest in the Sultanate — which is being established by the Public Authority for Strategic Food Reserves (PASFR) in support of the nation’s food security goals.
Separately, Essa al Ghurair — part of Dubai-based business conglomerate Al Ghurair Investments (AGI) — has already signed a deal with the port to set up a major food processing zone that seeks to capitalise on the value proposition offered by its geographic proximity to the Food Cluster.
Its presence at the port is expected to draw players operating across the food processing value chain to set up operations in Suhar.