The Sultanate has immense opportunity to develop as an aquaculture hub with an export potential projected at $7 billion per annum, according to Teng Theng Dar, Non-Resident Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the Sultanate of Oman.
The dignitary made the revelation at a forum titled ‘The Journey of Oman-Singapore Partnership and the Next Phase’, organised by the Oman Economic Association (OEA) at The Cultural Club in Qurum, Muscat, on Monday.
Also taking part in the forum were Alex Miquel, CEO, Sembcorp Salalah Power and Water Company; Tan Siang Tang, CEO of Oman Air SATS Cargo, Richard Grosse, Consul-General of the Singapore Consulate-General in Muscat, and an executive of e-Government solutions firm CrimsonLogic. The forum was moderated by Ann Said al Kindi, Board Member at the Omani Economic Association.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador Teng compared the Sultanate’s potential as an aquaculture hub to Vietnam, presently the world’s third largest seafood exporter. “Oman and Vietnam have the same land area, weather conditions (especially in south of Oman) and almost the same coastline of a little more than 3,000 kilometres. If Vietnam can do it, so can Oman,” he said.
Pledging Singaporean support for this objective, Ambassador Teng noted: “Singapore, through the Temasek Polytechnic and ITE, can provide the necessary training, R&D and skills-based education to help Oman realise its goal of becoming a global hub for the aquaculture industry.”
Significantly, the heads of higher educational and technical institutions in Singapore, notably Temasek Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education and other Singaporean scientists are currently in Oman working with relevant government agencies and universities, to help ensure that the aquaculture plan is achievable and implementable, the ambassador explained.
When asked how can Oman maximise that potential of aquaculture industry, Teng remarked, “The country should build on its strengths, resources, elements and capacity. It should adopt a broad-based value chain to create new industry and create new export generating sectors. It should use technology to create skill-based jobs to attract and retain youths. The government should induce development of supporting sectors, such as cold chain logistics; and stimulate application of science in R&D, food safety, food equality systems and standard.
The Sultanate, he further stressed, is blessed with a big land mass, lengthy coastline and open seas. “The ecosystem is in place. The natural blessings are there, including rich biodiversity. There’s minimal pollution and you have clean water system. Oman has the coasts and the sea, it can do both onshore and offshore aquaculture ventures,” Teng concluded.
Oman has been working on improving food security and production which is driven by investments in aquaculture and agriculture as the country looks for sustainable solutions to boost exports and provide employment to Omanis.
The Sultanate is the largest fresh fish producer in the region and has demonstrated its potential to become the leading regional aquaculture hub. However, the aquaculture sector is still emerging, with only one active fish farming company, hence there is significant room for investment.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the country envisages a five-year plan that sees a return of RO 739 million ($1.9 billion) from fishing and fish processing facilities by 2020, and creating 20,000 new jobs in the process. Specifically, the Ministry estimates aquaculture could represent a 220,000 tonne/ RO 350 million industry.
Aquaculture is one of the four key areas of interest jointly identified during 14th Singapore-Oman Joint Committee held in April this year.
The other areas include ICT, which enables developments for all sectors; Tourism, specifically smart tourism (applying ICT) which is in line with Oman’s Vision 2040; Logistics, a technology-driven sector, which is not only about transporting goods and products, but a delivery of complete service and most importantly a ‘cold chain logistics’ solution, given the Middle East’s temperature.
Currently, the Committee is doing a case study on developing a sustainable business ecosystem that aims to make Oman as one of the top five global seafood hubs in the world.