Growing initiatives to improve food self-sufficiency

MUSCAT, NOV 17 – Oman’s agriculture and fisheries sector contributed a significant share of 49 per cent to the total value of food supply available for consumption in 2018. “This is a significant figure, especially when considered on the backdrop of continued population growth coupled with improved consumption patterns,” points out the First Voluntary National Review of the Sultanate of Oman 2019. The Sultanate devotes utmost attention to the issue of food security and food supply and has developed a wide array of plans and programmes focused on the security and sustainability of food supply for nationals and expatriates.
According to the report, the overall self-sufficiency in local food products compared with their imported counterparts stood at 79 per cent in 2018, while the percentage of locally produced food items of the total goods available for consumption was at 58 per cent during the same year.
“These figures are expected to rise with the start of the actual production in investment projects currently under way,” says the report.
The success of the Sultanate in this regard was reflected in the 2018 Report of the Global Food Insecurity Index issued annually in conformity with international standards, including on food availability, access to food, stability of food supply, and food safety and quality.
Out of 113 countries, Oman came in the 29th position; thus, it can be argued that the initiatives implemented to improve the conditions of limited-income persons have played a positive role in this regard.
In fact, a number of new programmes were launched with the aim of capitalising on the potential of individuals and households, engaging them in the development process, and empowering and enabling them to become productive and self-dependent.
These programmes sought to turn social security households into self-dependent ones; invest in their capabilities; and support them at administrative, technical, and financial levels in the management of SMEs.
“As a result, a positive impact was noticed among social security households in terms of ensuring food availability,” adds the report.

MAINTAIN AGRICULTURAL ACREAGE
Moreover, Oman is striving to maintain its agricultural acreage in order to preserve agricultural lands and allow workers in the agricultural sector to settle down in their villages, which contributes to the sustainability of this sector, promotes its productivity and role in achieving food security, and protects the Omani environment from change and deterioration.
In the same vein, the government is currently executing construction projects of protection walls for farms located on the banks of wadis to prevent their deterioration due to precipitations and wadi floodwaters.
Furthermore, the government is implementing a set of procedures and projects intended to regulate the use of agricultural land.
Regulations on the use of agricultural land were issued with the aim of regulating the use of agricultural land and preserving them.
The 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.
Many programmes and projects were also dedicated to sustainable consumption and production, including agricultural pests and technical employment for production operations, with a view to preserving agricultural products, reducing damage caused by pests, and ensuring optimal employment and sustainability of available agricultural resources.
Efforts have also been directed towards improving and updating relevant laws and executive regulations that organise agricultural development action and maintain the sustainability of agricultural production and food safety. The government is currently carrying out various programmes and projects to promote date palm crops (strategic crops in Oman).

FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRIES
These projects focus on the production and marketing of Omani dates — as it is the case in the programme for the multiplication, dissemination and distribution of tissue culture date palm seedlings — with the aim of renewing farms of perennial palm trees suffering from declining productivity and low-quality species.
In terms of productivity enhancement, a number of guidance programmes are specifically dedicated to palm agriculture and intended to introduce farmers to the importance of palm quality control in order to secure good economic returns by using appropriate modern equipment such as drying rooms, presses and packaging machines; substituting excellent types of dessert dates; and embracing modern scientific methods that boost palm productivity.
As for marketing-focused efforts, these include the execution of the project for the development of date packing units, in addition to promoting date marketing and export outlets and encouraging date exhibitions such as the Omani Dates Festival.
In parallel, a special focus is placed on conducting research on palm trees and direct and indirect food processing industries, such as the production of jam, molasses, sugar syrup, vinegar and other products, as well as studies on palm-based non-food products and industries similar to wood and forage production from palm leaves and stems.
By limiting the quantity of food available for human consumption, agricultural pests as well as animal-borne diseases and epidemics have an adverse effect on food provision, not to mention the scarcity of water due to Oman’s location in a semi-desert area with low precipitation.
To address these challenges, the Sultanate devised a number of long-term strategies including the 2040 Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy in Oman, Long-Term Fisheries Strategy and the Food Security Strategy (2020-2040).