New poultry farm a step towards food security in Oman

Energy Monday 12/December/2016 20:20 PM
By: Times News Service
New poultry farm a step towards food security in Oman

MUSCAT: Oman plans to produce 60,000 tonnes of white meat by 2020 to ensure its food security and boost employment generation by constructing a new poultry farm, in accordance with the Tanfeedh directives for economic diversification.
“This is a project to generate white chicken meat, and may be set up either in Barka or in Salalah,” said Mustafa Al Riyami, Coordination and Follow-up Specialist for the Public Authority for Stores and Food Reserves.
“I am not sure about the location, because the issue is being decided at the moment, but this farm will produce about 60,000 tonnes of meat,” he added. “By 2020, we will attain about 73 per cent self-sufficiency, and by 2040, we will achieve 80 per cent self-sufficiency in white meat.”
The farm will be managed by the state-owned Oman Food Investment Holding Company, set up in 2014 to promote Oman’s food security through partnerships between government organisations and private investors.
“Oman currently produces less than 10 per cent of poultry requirement and imports the rest from the Middle East. Obviously, we can boost production within the country,” said Arvind Venkataraman, the Project Manager for Al Arfan Farms.
“This is a very viable option. The biggest issue with poultry is that farms shouldn’t be constructed next to urban areas,” he added.
“But in Oman, we have more than 70 per cent of land that is not close to urban areas. That makes production very feasible and poultry is the largest consumed food item in the country.”
Oman’s current consumption of meat from poultry is around 121,000 metric tonnes, according to figures released by the United States Department of Agriculture, and is set to increase by another 10,000 tonnes by next year.
Poultry and dairy
“This is definitely a step in the right direction, because poultry and dairy are the top food security indicators in Oman,” added Venkataraman.
“After vegetables and fruits, the highest protein content comes from these items, and historically, any nation that has been able to produce its own poultry and dairy is more socially mature.
“Jobs running into a few hundreds can be easily created, right from the daily farming-level to the upper-level management,” he explained. “I think you are also looking at a whole new industry of healthcare and animal sciences. Universities like the Sultan Qaboos University have been churning out students who haven’t really had that sort of opportunity in the country. Now you will have lesser burden on the banks and the ministries to fund projects because you will have people who can do this job in this country itself.
“The general health condition of society is better, the quality of life is better and, therefore, you would get more productive people per capita in society,” Venkataraman said. “For Oman, this farm would also mean reduced expenditure burden. We are borrowing a lot right now, and that index will come down. We will not have to subsidise so many things, and with reduced financial liabilities, the opportunities to invest in more businesses will also come to Oman.”
According to Dr. Omar Al Jabri, the Assistant Dean for Training and Community Service at the College of Marine and Agricultural Sciences at the Sultan Qaboos University, Oman is very well placed to set up this farm.
Food security
“We have the potential to do this because we are not different from other Middle Eastern countries when it comes to climate. It is also about food security, which is really important. With imports being high, the public will favour domestic markets first,” he said.
“Once we achieve self-sufficiency, we can start exporting to other markets, and there is a very high potential for that,” added Al Jabri. “When you go abroad, you see products on the shelves especially meant for domestic use. We do not see that being applied here. More local produce will also mean a greater variety of products for those living in Oman.”