MUSCAT, DEC 31 – Oman’s first soybean extraction plant is proposed to come up at Sohar Port and Freezone, the latest in a series of investments by Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), which is implementing a large portfolio of strategically important ventures in support the nation’s food security goals. The venture, according to a senior executive of state-owned OFIC, will produce high-quality soybean meal — a key protein supplement used in poultry diets — for the nation’s rapidly expanding poultry farming industry.
Poultry production capacity, currently estimated at 30,000 tonnes per annum, is projected to surge to around 120,000 tonnes per annum over the next 3 — 5 years. Contributing to this quantum leap in capacity is, among other investments, A’Namaa Poultry Co SAOC, a subsidiary of OFIC, which is developing a 60,000 tonnes capacity mega poultry project in Ibri with an investment of around RO 100 million. Together with current market heavyweight A’Saffa Foods, which has plans to double capacity to around 40,000 tonnes, as well as a couple of other smaller poultry farming schemes in the works, the demand for soybean meal for the emerging industry is expected to grow exponentially, said Frank O’Regan, Chief Operating Officer — OFIC.
“So, there will be around 100,000 tonnes of new poultry farming capacity being added to the Omani market over the next 3 — 5 years, for which we would need large volumes of soya meal, particularly to feed the chickens,” said O’Regan.
“We can either source it from international markets, but risk exposure to commodity price fluctuations in the process. Or we can choose to buy the bean from various countries and process it here in Oman and thereby control the supply chain,” he noted.
Speaking to the Observer, the COO said the proposed soybean extraction project has received OFIC’s thumbs-up. “We have already spoken to interested investors, and we hope that within the next number of months, we will launch a company that will then take the concept plan and design, we have developed, into the detailed design and construction stages. OFIC will take a promotional stake in this new venture.”
Soybean as feedstock for the project is proposed to be sourced from a number of countries, although producers in South Africa have already approached OFIC with offers to culture the beans for Oman, according to O’Regan.
Importantly, the proposed soybean extraction plant has the potential to position Oman as a key producer of soya meal for the poultry industry in the wider region, OFIC’s Chief Operating Officer pointed out.