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Oman 2015 | AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Rashid Bin Salim Al-Masroori, Executive President of the Public Authority for Stores and Food Reserve (PASFR), on the drive to ensure food security and boost local production in key sectors.

HE Dr. Rashid Bin Salim Al-Masroori
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Rashid Bin Salim Al-Masroori has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Politics and Government from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma in the US, an MBA from the University of Hull in the UK, and received his PhD from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He has occupied several middle and senior management positions in government and has sat on various listed companies’ board of directors. He has over 28 years of experience in public and private sector administration, marketing management, strategic management, and planning and market research.

How has the Public Authority for Stores and Food Reserve (PASFR) developed since its establishment?

This organization was established in 1980 with the aim of ensuring a sufficient national stock of food and essential commodities in the event of emergencies. There are seven primary commodities: rice, sugar, wheat, dried milk, vegetable oil, tea, and lentils. They are mainly imported commodities, and as a result part of our strategy for food security is to keep them in stock. The mechanism for doing this has two functions, the first involving the importation of these commodities directly from the sources of production, such as rice from India, Pakistan, or Thailand, whereupon the authority sells directly to the market. This is the case for rice, sugar, and lentils. For other commodities, we deal with the private sector, and we have a contract with companies whereby they stock these commodities to a certain level and sell them on behalf of the organization. Another part of the mandate stipulates proximity to the population. We are, therefore, located at five sites nationwide, namely Sohar, Salalah, Nizwa, Muscat, and most recently Sharqiya. There, we have large warehousing facilities from which we sell to wholesalers. In addition to this, we network with traders and have over 250 agents across Oman that buy from us and resell to the end-consumer.

Is it hard to keep food prices stable?

It is, but we viewed it as an integral part of our new food security strategy in 2012, of which imports are a component. However, other strategies include increasing local food production, such as beans, red meat, poultry, and dairy. This goal prompted the government to establish the Oman Food Investment Holding Company, of which I am the Chairman, in light of the food crisis of 2008-2009. Another part of this mandate is overseas investment in the products we import, whereby we can secure reliable imports to Oman, too.

What role do livestock and fish play in the Sultanate's food supply?

Oman is virtually self sufficient in fish production. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth is working and has already approved a huge investment to increase local production. There is a focus today on aquaculture, and that reflects demand, with new companies being licensed in the sector. Other related programs include port infrastructure, with Duqm expected to house vast fisheries and processing units in the coming years. The bulk of that output is consumed domestically, with the balance being exported. In terms of livestock, there is a shortage of both production and green feed. Oman imports significant volumes of livestock, and yet around 80% of this is destined for re-export. There is a current government drive—channeled through our company and other organizations—to increase local production, either through farms in Oman, imports, or by working abroad directly and importing processed food. The Oman Food Investment Holding Company is working on a project related to boosting livestock in Oman, and that should have a framework in place by 2015. There is a huge gap between local production and consumption in terms of livestock.

What is the significance of the government's wheat silo construction project with TAME?

Our organization holds responsibility for that project, which involves the construction of silos in Sohar and Salalah with a grain capacity of 200,000 tons in Sohar. There will also be silos at Salalah Port with a capacity of around 100,000 tons, making for a total capacity of approximately 300,000 tons, mostly of wheat. As part of our strategy we are evaluating the possibility of Oman becoming a hub for grain commerce, and a number of countries consider this to be a viable proposition given that Oman is centrally located between Asia, Africa, and Europe, with convenient proximity on the Indian Ocean.