Muscat: Leading provider of business investment consultancy services, The Business Year (TBY), and Hamed Said Al Oufi, undersecretary of Fisheries Wealth, recently met to discuss the potential of fisheries, widely seen as a source of income to diversify the economy outside of oil and gas sector.
In Oman, this sector includes both sea fishing and aquaculture. "We feel that we should utilise the opportunities and optimise production from the seas and also accelerate the growth of aquaculture by expanding production," said Al Oufi during the meeting with TBY.
"We are the largest market in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Europe is also a key export destination. Over the next four or five years, we are trying to focus on the quantities exported to Europe as these are more lucrative and have value-added products," he added.
The undersecretary stressed the importance of adequate infrastructure as a premise to the development of the sector.
The development strategy adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is supported by a budget of $1.3 billion. By the end of 2020, the Sultanate will have around 30 multipurpose fishing ports that will not only serve the fishing sector, but also tourism and trade sectors.
Discussing the ministry's development strategy, the undersecretary added, "In addition to the new ports, we are also modernising eight fishing ports built 10-20 years ago. We will enlarge them and put in more facilities to receive the fishing and tourism fleet. We are trying to ensure that the processing sector adds value to maximise the income or and exports processed products to the optimum markets."
The social component is crucial for a sector that today employs more than 45,000 Omanis. "Using aquaculture, we expect to produce around 200,000 tonnes of fish products by the year 2030, which is the equivalent of our current production from the sea. This means that Oman can double its production over the next 15 years."
It is clear that aquaculture will play an instrumental role in the economic future of the Sultanate and will also create thousands of jobs for nationals.
Consequently, to achieve its ambitious goals, the country is studying successful stories in other countries that are pioneers in this field.
Investment represents a vital factor for the development of fisheries. "We started promoting aquaculture early last year. We have received over 30 applications for this business, but have only permitted 19 schemes with a total value of OMR130 million. This investment is a joint venture between Omani investors and foreign investment from Asia, the United States, Europe, South Africa, and Australia."
Even for fisheries, the development of the infrastructure network — airports, ports, and roads —represents a pivotal enabler for a remarkable growth.
"We envisage being able to export directly from the area of production. This will allow Oman to become a hub for the food and fishery industries," said Al Oufi.
The complete interview with Hamed Said Al Oufi will be featured in The Business Year: Oman 2015.
The Business Year (TBY) is a leading provider of business information and a publisher of annual trade and investment resources. TBY meets with the world's top political, commercial, and industrial leaders to deliver targeted information, in-depth analysis, and strategic advice to the global business community on economic trends and investment opportunities.