Oman to focus on developing agriculture and fisheries sectors
July 31, 2017 | 4:53 PM
by Times News Service
Oman's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. - Times file picture

Muscat: Oman’s government is currently giving priority to develop the agriculture and fisheries sectors, like the tourism sector.

In order to make the growth process in Oman more resilient to external price shocks, the country’s economic ‘vision document’ has set a target for the agriculture sector to contribute about 3.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020, with an annual growth rate of not less than 4.5 per cent.

The contribution of the fisheries sector to overall GDP has been set at 2 per cent by 2020, with an annual growth rate of 5.6 per cent, said the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) in its annual report.

Agriculture and fisheries sectors registered a solid growth of 16.3 per cent in 2016, surging from an average growth of about 6.4 per cent in the previous five years.

“The relative share of agriculture and fisheries in the overall GDP improved to 2 per cent in 2016, compared with an average share of 1.3 per cent during the previous five years. The real GDP originating from agriculture and fisheries sector also showed improvement during the recent years,” the CBO report said.

The landscape of Oman places natural constraints on the growth of agriculture in the country. Scanty rainfall and inadequate availability of ground water in most parts of the country are the two major constraints that stop the country from becoming self-sufficient with respect to food grains and other farm products. As the country largely depends on imported food grain and other agro-based products, international prices of those commodities often influence the price situation in the domestic economy, CBO said in its report.

Two consecutive years of marked fall in commodity food prices in the international markets in 2015 and 2016 benefited Oman to a great extent in terms of moderation of domestic food prices.

Fisheries sector

According to statistics released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information, Oman’s total fish production grew by 5.4 per cent to 270,863 tonnes last year, from 257,001 tonnes in 2015, thanks to a robust growth in the catches of traditional fishermen.

The contribution of the traditional sector in fish catch grew by 5.2 per cent to 267,981 tonnes last year, up from 254,767 tonnes in the previous year. In terms of value, the traditional segment brought in OMR199.65 million in 2016, against OMR169.42 million for the previous year.

According to earlier reports, the Sultanate’s fish catch, including production through aquaculture, is expected to double and touch 500,000 tonnes per annum by 2020.

The overall plan to develop the fisheries sector, applicable from 2013 to 2020, included massive fleet expansion, additional harbours, development of fish markets, support to fishermen, aquaculture development and additional fish processing and logistics services.

Oman, with its long coastal line of 3,262 kilometres, has great potential to develop the fisheries sector to serve global markets.

The fisheries sector is one of the promising sectors in diversifying sources of national income, creating job opportunities and ensuring high value-added products.

Oman expects an additional 10,000 to 15,000 new employment opportunities to be created by 2020. Currently, the Sultanate has 46,000 people, who depend on fishing for their livelihood.

New employment opportunities will be available in different areas, such as fishermen, crew, processing plants, fish marketing firms, feed production, export agencies and aquaculture fields.

To strengthen fish production, Oman is also developing the Middle East’s biggest fishing harbour, facilities for sea food processing and packaging, facilities for storing raw materials and deep freezers for exports in the Duqm special economic zone.

The Duqm fishing harbour and integrated processing zone is being developed by the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (Sezad), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The integrated processing facility, which will have around 60 fish processing units close to the harbour, is in the design stage now.

Also, Oman is in the process of developing eight more fishing harbours and ports of varying sizes, with a sizable investment as part of a comprehensive plan to strengthen the fisheries sector and create additional employment opportunities for the youth.

By 2020, as many as 30 fishing harbours or ports are expected to be operational, against 20 such ports now.

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