Muscat: A pilot project to support livestock farmers in the Dhofar region will start next year with the establishment of several milk collection centres. The pilot project, which is part of a series of major initiatives undertaken by the state-owned Oman Food Investment Holding Co. (OFIC), is aimed at evaluating the scheme before launching it on a commercial basis.
A new company — Al Marooj Dairy — has already been formed to collect milk from farmers living in the mountains and plains of the Dhofar region. "The company will focus on collecting cow's milk, as well as camel's milk. It will start with a pilot project, which will have several collection centres in the wilayat of Salalah,” Saleh M Al Shanfari, chief executive officer of OFIC, told Times of Oman. Eventually, the network of collection centres will be expanded to other regions of the Dhofar governorate.
He said the plan was to start with seven collection-cum-chilling centres. "The fresh milk from farmers will be tested, collected, chilled and then sent for processing. For processing the collected milk, we will make an arrangement with Dhofar Cattle Feed Co., which has a lot of excess capacity," he stated, adding, "Eventually, once the need for a new processing plant arises, we will build a new plant."
The plan is to start a commercial project after assessing the performance of the pilot venture.
The milk collection and dairy processing projects are primarily targeted at Omani livestock herders who thrive in the jabals (mountains) of the governorate, as well as those in the plains. The scheme, which is expected to help thousands of farmers, will help in the modernisation of livestock farming among small herd owners and augment household income with the introduction of cooperative-style milk collection and processing for the first time in the Sultanate. It will also strengthen the domestic production network and improve the supply chain framework in a significant manner.
The entire investment in this project, which will be launched in a phased manner over a period of four years, will be by state-owned companies. The initial feasibility study for the project was conducted in 2015.
The milk collection and processing project is part of four major ventures initiated by OFIC, which are under different stages of planning and implementation, aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in local production, as well as for import substitution. The other three ventures are a dairy project, a poultry project and a red meat venture.
OFIC develops partnerships with private and public stakeholders to mobilise various resources and attract more investment to the food sector.