Muscat: Edible insects are on this month’s discussion menu as the upcoming Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre (OAPGRC) Science Café will tackle what is widely regarded as the next foodie frontier.
This taste bud tickling topic will be discussed at Moca More Coffee Shop in Ghubra at 7.30pm on February 27. Sponsored by Oman LNG, and held this month in Arabic, the popular monthly event is, as always, free of charge and open to anyone interested in finding out more about the creepy crawlies that could soon be claiming a regular place on restaurant menus and in the weekly rotation of home cooks.
Not simply a fad, the interest in eating crickets, beetles, meal worms and more is part of a broader movement toward healthy and eco-conscious foods and for governments across the world these tiny creatures offer a potential solution to the challenge of feeding growing populations in the face of the ravages of climate change.
“It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will be home to nine billion people. This means that current food production will need to almost double,” said Dr Nadiya Al Saady, OAPGRC Executive Director and Science Café organiser. Dr Al Saady continued: “This is no simple task as land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is seldom a viable or sustainable possibility. On top of this, oceans are overfished and climate change, along with related water shortages, is set to have far-reaching implications for animal rearing and crop production.
She added, “So, to meet the food and nutrition challenges this presents, governments, scientists and the food industry are re-assessing what we eat and how it’s produced. I’m being very serious when I tell you that insects could be an option that is very much on the cards. For many cultures eating these creatures is already part of everyday life and over 1,900 edible species of insects, each with its own distinctive qualities and flavour, are already regularly enjoyed by more than a billion people across the world. Indeed, edible insect food products - from protein bars to pasta - are being introduced into new markets and sold online by pioneering entrepreneurs.”
In fact, one popular supermarket chain in the United Kingdom has been offering packets of barbecue flavour crunchy roasted crickets in 250 stores since November last year with other retailers preparing to follow suit. Noting that Research and Markets, a well-respected company that provides industry forecasts, estimates the edible insect business will reach $1.2 billion in market worth by 2023, Dr Al-Saady felt confident that opportunities abound for Omani start-ups keen to capitalise on this eco-friendly commercial opportunity while it’s still in its early stages.
Sharing their expertise and insights at on this fascinating topic at the OAPGRC Science Café will be Dr Mohammed bin Hamed Al-Rizeiqi, Associate Researcher, Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University with Ali bin Ahmed Al Raisi, College superintendent, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University. Moderating the evening’s deliberations will be Dr Al-Mutasem Al-Maamari.