New trade routes for Oman

Stefano Virgilli

Last month I wrote a two-part column for Oman Observer titled, “How to launch an e-commerce marketplace in Oman”. The article was received particularly well as I was contacted by many entrepreneurs afterwards, seeking further advice on the essential steps needed in order to maximise chances of success.

I have always been aware of how Oman had solid trade routes, but I was quite surprised to receive emails describing new international routes that I was not informed about.

According to the data provided by the World Bank in 2018, Oman’s preferred trade routes are with neighbour United Arab Emirates (reaching nearly 7 per cent of total exports), followed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia (both exceeding 4 per cent of the trade), then India (2.6 per cent), and China (1.9 per cent). Similarly the Sultanate’s main suppliers are United Arab Emirates (45.9 per cent), followed by China (5.9 per cent), then India (4.4 per cent), Qatar (3.5 per cent), and Saudi Arabia (3.2 per cent). The European Union accounts for a substantial amount of import value at 7.8 per cent.

One of the emails that I received was from Mr Adeyemi, a Nigerian entrepreneur who described to me how he has set up an import / export business between Oman and West Africa. In his opinion there is a strong demand for specific products in textile and raw materials.

Similar trades are established between Mongolia and Oman, according to another entrepreneur, Mr Ganbaatar, that contacted me after reading the article, asking some logistic questions.

I was also approached by Omani friends and entrepreneurs who were sharing with me what they agreed with in the column. For instance Mr Mansoor is trading with South America. He managed to find customers interested in Omani frankincense and he has been supplying them for a few years already. He shared that he encountered some challenges while attempting to ship the products in some countries for the first time, because frankincense is considered a plant, or rather a resin from a plant, which pose some red tape when filing import documentation. Therefore he agreed with the column I wrote on how crucial the legal and logistic aspect is when setting up an online trade marketplace.

I have also received an email from Ms Olga, who lives in Oman and sends back to Ukraine religious products such as garments and books. She claims that the Muslims in her country are enthusiastic about receiving religious supplies from the Middle East, particularly from Oman.

Oman had a positive trade balance in 2018, meaning that more goods and services were sold than bought, providing positive cash flow for the Sultanate for around $11 billion. That was as a result of an upward trend for Oman, which had been growing since 2016. As the pandemic hit many economies, we are hopeful that the solidity of Omani exports might continue to grow.