Weekly Made in Oman Series: Prospects for Oman’s food industry: Interview with Dr Nadiya al Saady, Executive Director, Oman Animal, Plant & Genetic Resources Centre
Is there a demand for locally grown food?
Let’s look at this from a global perspective, by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, over 30 per cent higher than today and nearly all of this increase will occur in developing countries. Urbanisation will continue at an accelerated pace, and about 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. Income levels will be many multiples of what they are now. In order to feed this larger, more urban and richer population, food production will have to increase by 70 per cent. So, yes, I think there are a lot of opportunities for forward-thinking Omani entrepreneurs who want to jump on the food industry train.
What’s your take on the sustainable-food movement?
As more Omani consumers become conscious about what they eat, where it comes from, how it is produced, how it impacts health and well-being – demand for fresh, healthy, locally sourced organic food will continue to rise. It is crucial we look at ways of boosting our local food system to feed a growing population. In other words, we need to localize our sustainable food supply to the greatest level possible.
The sustainable-food movement, with a focus on local food networks and healthy eating, has proven to be increasingly popular with the Omani public. Usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested, locally produced fruits and vegetables are fresher and taste better than produce which has been shipped for a long period of time. Statistics reveal that much of the produce purchased in supermarkets has been shipped from overseas traveling on average over 2,000 kilometres for as many as 7 to 14 days.
Does buying local produce really have an impact on communities?
Absolutely. Buying local produce does not just taste better, it also leads to money being reinvested in our communities, creating jobs and by cutting the distance food travels it reduces carbon emissions in line with our commitments on climate change. The growing demand for local sustainable food provides exciting commercial opportunities for Oman’s farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants and hotel chains. Indeed, local start-ups, particularly those run by young people are tapping into the public desire to give back to the community – they are concerned for the future of the planet and feel personally responsible to make a difference. They have my full support.