Oman becomes world’s largest gypsum exporter

Having toppled Thailand to clinch the crown as the world’s largest natural gypsum exporter, the Sultanate has the potential to retain its dominant position as a global supplier of this hugely coveted commodity for at least another couple of decades, according to a key mining industry executive.
Alawi Zawawi, Vice Chairman of USG Boral Zawawi Gypsum, a leading player in the export of natural gypsum, said that Oman has the potential to export cumulatively total more than 300 million tonnes over the next 15 years (2018-2032), going by current trends. At an average Export FOB price of $18 per tonne, this could generate over $5.4 billion in export revenues for the Sultanate over this timeframe, he noted.
“With domestic gypsum resources estimated at more than one billion tonnes, Oman is well-placed to meet rising Asian demand for this commodity at a time when traditional exporters are grappling with depleting resources or other challenges,” said Alawi Zawawi.
“The beneficial implications for Oman’s non-oil economy are huge if the Sultanate seeks to fully capitalize on this potential. Exports of the mineral, which otherwise has limited commercial potential for further value addition locally, will not only help boost the non-oil sector’s contribution to GDP, but also support the government’s employment generation and economic diversification goals,” added Ramachandran, Director of USG Boral Zawawi Gypsum.
The upbeat long-term outlook for gypsum exports comes as statistics indicate that the Sultanate has, for the first time, dislodged Thailand from its perch at the top of the world’s rankings of major gypsum exporters. Shipments of Omani natural gypsum via the Port of Salalah totalled 7.40 million tonnes in 2017 versus Thailand’s tally of 5.38 million tonnes for the year. Faced with growing demand for its own thriving gypsum industry, Thai authorities have been limiting exports of the commodity in recent years, opening the way for Oman to step in with supplies of its own high-quality product.
Exports of Omani gypsum have grown a phenomenal 25-fold over the past seven years. Outflows of the commodity have soared from 0.30 million tonnes in 2010 to 7.40 million tonnes in 2017.
This upsurge has been driven primarily by escalating demand in Asian countries, notably India, which depends on imports for the bulk of its gypsum requirements to feed its huge cement manufacturing industry. India is presently the world’s second largest cement producer.
With traditional exporters, such as Thailand seeing their market share increasingly decline, the Sultanate, on the other hand, is steadily expanding its footprint globally. Omani gypsum was shipped to as many as 15 countries around the world in 2017. Around 2.45 million tonnes, representing a third of last year’s total exports of 7.40 million tonnes, went to India. Other major importers were Vietnam (1.43 million tonnes), Bangladesh (0.874 million tonnes), Japan (0.861 million tonnes), Indonesia (0.728 million tonnes) and Australia (0.248 million tonnes). Also lifting gypsum from the Sultanate were China, South Korea, Philippines, USA, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Sri Lanka.
Market dynamics, along with a combination of geostrategic and economic factors, will secure Oman’s place as the leading supplier of gypsum to the Asian market for the foreseeable future, according to Ramachandran.
Major exporting rivals Thailand, Iran, Mexico and Australia face relatively high shipping and
logistics costs, among other challenges, in growing their market share
Thailand, which has long reigned as Asia’s dominant supplier, has begun slashing gypsum exports due to supply constraints anticipated in the future. Iranian gypsum exports are primarily restricted to the neighbouring markets of the UAE, Qatar, and the West Coast of India. Mexican exports to Asia have dropped dramatically due to the high landed cost of gypsum.
Likewise, high FOB costs have limited Australian exports to only one market: New Zealand.
“That leaves Oman as the single most important source of high grade natural gypsum for cement and gypsum board manufacturers across Asia and South/East Africa,” he observed.
Underscoring the surging demand for Omani gypsum, Salalah Port handled a record 1.6 million tonnes of the mineral during the first two months of this year.
To cater to the strong uptrend in mineral and general cargo exports, the port has announced plans to invest in a new mobile ship loader, as well as replace old equipment — initiatives that are due to be completed this year.