Local food movement in spotlight at next Ithraa forum

MUSCAT, DEC 9 – A powerful local food movement is growing; a movement that is connecting Omani consumers with how, where and by whom their food is grown. It is forging new pathways to help rural families stay on their home farms and attracting new, young producers to farming and food-related businesses. It is also bringing about a new appreciation for rural production and entrepreneurship among Omani chefs, food companies and retailers large and small.
This exciting new local food movement is up for discussion at the next edition of Inside Stories scheduled for 7 pm, Tuesday December 12, at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Training Centre in Al Hail North.
“Decision makers around the world are increasingly recognising the connections between food and agriculture and a set of broader outcomes, such as public health, the environment, civic engagement, economic opportunity. Job creation and increased levels of happiness,” commented Taleb al Makhmari (pictured), Ithraa’s Marketing & Media Director-General
and organiser of the monthly Inside Stories initiative.
Proudly supported by the Public Authority for Civil Aviation and Al Mouj Muscat, panellists for Tuesday night’s Inside Stories session include: Saleh al Shanfari, CEO, Oman Food Investment Holding Company; Robert MacLean, Principal, National Hospitality Institute; Zainab Jones, micro-agriculturist; and James Paul, Managing Director, Al Arfan Farms.
Noting the soaring demand for produce and food grown and raised in Oman, Al Makhmari said: “Opportunities abound for small farms and local food entrepreneurs. But competition is fierce and a fantastic product is, sadly, not always enough these days. To harvest the possibilities of the growing interest in Omani produce, and particularly in healthy organic fruit, vegetables, grain and meat, local businesses need to be sure they know how to brand, package and market in ways that appeal to local consumers,” remarked Al Makhmari.
In addition to marketing, packaging, food supply chains and organic produce the December 12 Inside Stories will also explore urban farming.
The UN FAO reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s food and this percentage is expected to double in the next 20 years.
According to research from the US Community Food Security Coalition in a 130-day temperate growing season, a 10’x10’ metre plot can provide most of a 4-person household’s total yearly vegetable needs, including much of the household’s nutritional requirements for vitamins A, C, B complex and iron. From an economic perspective, approximately every 400 baisas invested in a community garden plot yields RO 2.200 worth of vegetables.
“The growth of urban agriculture is reviving and stimulating local economies like never before and it is creating local jobs,” explained Al Makhmari. Ithraa’s Director-General added: “More economic transactions occurring within a community means more income and work for local businesses. ”
Tuesday evening’s Inside Stories event will also be serving locally grown organic food, supplied by Al Arfan Farms and carefully prepared by catering students from Oman’s Tourism College.
Inside Stories is open to the public and free- of-charge to attend. To register, log on to: events.ithraa.om