CONRAD PRABHU –
MUSCAT, APRIL 29 –
Thousands of Omani farmers, as well as a plethora of commercial agricultural farms, are expected to take advantage of a new Integrated Fruits & Vegetables Marketing Company (IFVMCo) to secure more lucrative markets for their fresh produce.
IFVMCo is the brainchild of Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), the food sector investment and development flagship of the Omani government. OFIC is spearheading investments, running into hundreds of millions of Omani rials, in an expanding portfolio of strategic food-related ventures aimed primarily at advancing the Sultanate’s food security objectives.
On Sunday, OFIC officials made a detailed presentation of the new company’s broad objectives and its potential to have a transformational impact on the Sultanate’s agricultural sector. With investments planned in collection points and cold chain infrastructure at key locations across the Sultanate, IFVMCo has the potential to bring much-needed relief to small-time Omanis who often struggle to get fair returns on their fresh produce for want of access to cold storage and reasonably priced transport and logistics support.
The IFVMCo initiative is conceptualised around an integrated agency specialising in the marketing of locally grown, as well as the production of high value crops that are in demand in local and export markets.
“This company will work closely with existing agricultural associations, farmers, small and medium enterprises in the farm sector, wholesalers and retailers to support food sustainability in the Sultanate,” said Saleh al Shanfari (pictured), CEO — Oman Food Investment Holding Co (OFIC).
Part of the objectives of this new entity is to optimise revenues for Omani farmers, minimise losses and waste due to the current lack of cold chain infrastructure, support the introduction of modern farming techniques suitable to Oman’s weather and environmental conditions, and generate productive employment, he said.
Importantly, a series of Collection & Processing Centres (CPU) will be set up at key locations to facilitate the procurement of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and producers, according to the official. In the first phase, the centres are envisaged for development in Suhar, Barka and Thamrait. Each of these centres will be suitably designed and equipped to receive, weigh, wash, grade, package and refrigerate fruits and vegetables collected from local farmers and suppliers. The capacities of the three centres is projected at 160,000 tonnes collectively by the year 2025, according to officials.
Additional Collection Points (CP) are envisioned in Suwaiq, Nizwa, Al Kamil w’al Wafi and Salalah within proximity of agricultural farms. Fresh produce collected at these points will be transported to CPCs for further processing.
The Suhar and Barka CPCs will primarily collect and process tomato, cucumber, pepper, eggplant, okra, carrots, squash, beans, lettuce, melon, watermelon, lime, pomegranate and mango. Papaya and potato will be added to be list at Thamrait.
Furthermore, the company’s Trading Unit will enter into contracts with farmers for the cultivation of select high value fruits and vegetables, officials added.
CONRAD PRABHU –