Ensuring food security has been highlighted at the top of the national agenda, and the government is bolstering infrastructure and support for local companies of all sizes.

Yaqoob Al Ruqaishi

General Manager, A’Namaa Poultry

We are a private company, although government funding constitutes some of our financing. Overall, we are funded by 50% equity and 50% debt. We are investing in a fully integrated poultry project from the hatchery until the end product, and we have a different company managing the parent stock. So far, we have made investments in building a hatchery, feed mill, slaughterhouse, and 240 broiler houses. The need for food security has arisen in the last few years as the climate has been changing in part through storms and hurricanes that have resulted in interruptions to the supply chain of poultry in Oman. At present, Oman produces around 28-30% of our needs, leaving a gap of nearly 70%, which is a concern for the government. At the same time, development of domestic production creates jobs, aids the development of the countryside, and provides a market for new SMEs to start operating. In terms of challenges, the main internal challenge is the management of the project. External challenges largely revolve around prices of imports, like the feed cost; the fluctuating prices of raw material are another challenge. We have to add a significant amount of technology into our process, and we need to ensure that we import high-quality goods. In general, the challenges companies face in the Middle East is the lengthy paperwork, and each step takes a long time to accomplish; however, we have seen improvements, and the government has supported us from day one.

Arjun Subramanian

General Manager, Mazoon Dairy Company

We plan to procure a herd of 8,250 cows, and through in-house breeding, we hope to reach a total heard population of 25,000 over a 10-year period. Every time we plan procurement, we assess the situation and the factors to determine which sources give us a competitive advantage at the time. Broadly, we will import from Australia, Europe, and the US. The first batch will be from Australia, and we will ramp up our imports as the animals settle down and our production and local demand starts up. Then, once we reach our projected import numbers, we will continue to increase the size of the herd purely through in-house growth. It is important to plan for the right capacity, and we have planned for 1 million liters of liquid production a day on a longer term. In terms of regulatory framework, regulations need to be updated as our industry evolves. We plan to have an information exchange with the authorities so it can set up the right framework, categories, and product lists for uncategorized imports. Our business strategy is to have a strong home base and be a leader in Oman, which requires plenty of logistics development. From the beginning, we will target export markets in our immediate neighbors, and this is part of the reason why our operations are located close to the border with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Haitham Al-Fannah

CEO, Oman Flour Mills Company (OFMC)

The toughest part of the business is being highly dependent on imports; we import heavily from Australia, Canada, Russia, Argentina, and Brazil. Droughts and changes in weather patterns have affected grain production in the past, so prices tend to fluctuate significantly. We try our best to stabilize this, in part by researching how to acquire lands from countries such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and nearby regions and have sustainable supply without fluctuations in prices. A second alternative is to develop a future where Oman is the regional grain hub, with corn, wheat, and barley stocked in abundance. It is similar to the Singaporean model, which does the same with stocking oil. This is the main idea for Oman Flour and is part of the national food security program. We currently export to around 10 markets, though it varies every season. We are the first brand of our kind in Oman, so we have maintained 45% market share here and thus do not depend on our export markets for a large part of our revenue. In addition, the export market is not as attractive as the domestic market because of high competition in the international market. In terms of expansion, a master plan was developed several years ago with the idea of having two types of integration: forward integration resembles a bakery and an egg or chicken farm, and for backward integration, a great example is our soybean crushing project. Our future strategy is exclusively based on these two sides.

Ghalib Said Al Saidi

General Manager, Al Bashayer Meat Company

We work with the Ministry of Agriculture to monitor and trace every animal we import from the beginning until it reaches the customer. We have what we call a passport for each animal and built an ERP system that can track the animal from the beginning to determine its vaccinations, the medication it gets, the feed it consumes, and so on. We can also use this data to improve the quality and traceability of the meat itself. This improves our sourcing strategy, where we can guarantee that we are getting an animal from this farm, and if the quality is not up to standard, we can eliminate that farmer or improve his/her method of dealing with animals. We communicate with different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture on its rules, regulations, and protocols and also with its external connections for different quarantine regulations around the world. Over the last two years, the stakeholders have been working together. For example, feed and soy companies now have a more in-depth knowledge of the market and what domestic consumers and partners want. As we work with different domestic companies, the knowledge base and the amount of knowledge sharing has increased. For example, within OFIC, the efficiency of each company has vastly improved. Being part of a big organization with all of us working together for the country's food security encourages the sharing of resources and knowledge.

Mohammed Al Mashani

CEO, Omani National Livestock Development Company (ONLDC)

The market is rapidly changing, and ONLDC is trying to change with it. At present, we are working on a project with Al Murooj Dairy, which is one of our subsidiary companies. Al Murooj works to help individuals add value and give them money in return for the milk their cows are producing. We use the Dhofar Cattle Feed infrastructure to sterilize the milk and make it in a professional environment. Ever since I joined I have put utmost focus on quality. Although the quality in previous years was also outstanding, by making it a priority, our quality is now the differentiating factor that sets us apart from the competition. Similarly, our relationship with OFIC has made us more competitive as it is the main food investment projects driver in Oman. Recently, OFIC launched Mazoon Dairy, which is going to be the largest dairy farm in the Middle East and also Al Bashayer Meat Company and Al Namaa Poultry, which is a huge poultry farm. These projects will give us an additional market and the operations of these projects will follow the same quality standards because we fall under the same umbrella. Our objective is to keep up our quality and reach more markets. So far, the company has received a good response in Qatar and Somalia; therefore, we are considering opening a representative office in Doha to cater to increasing demand.

Khalid Mansour Al-Zadjali

CEO, Oman Fisheries Company

Across the Omani fishing industry, 95% of the catch depends on traditional fishermen who use traditional, small-scale boats. We seek to keep Omanis as fisherpersons, though we want to improve their capacity. We will have a new company to manage and operate our fleet and will introduce modern vessels for local fisherpersons. 24% of the company is owned by the government, while the rest is owned by the fisherpersons. We have more than 117,000 fishermen who are shareholders in the company, and we will follow this same scenario with the new sister company. Moreover, we now have a small value-added plant in the Buraimi area where we have breaded products. We also have three brands for Oman Fisheries: Fun Fish, Sadaf, and Taqa. All these are value-added products targeting different demographics. Fun Fish is targeted toward children, Sadaf is a high-end brand, and Taqa is targeted toward the general GCC audience. In terms of export markets, the top one is China, because many of the cuttlefish and ribbon fish go directly to China. The second is Europe, as we now have great business there, especially with fresh fish such as loins and steak, which go directly to Spain and Italy. The US is another major market for tuna loins, and we are exporting great volumes there. Moving forward, we will see the export markets grow when the cold chain is further developed.