QUANTITY AND QUALITY

Oman 2018 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Musallam Said Ali Qatan, Chairman of Al Morooj Dairy, on the company's flagship project to integrate traditional practices with the modernizing economy in the dairy industry.

Sheikh Musallam Said Ali Qatan
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Musallam Said Ali Qatan earned his master’s degree in human resource management from Sikkim Manipal University in India, and has attended numerous training courses and workshops in the field of public administration and local governance. He pursued public service and served numerous public posts, the last of which was Director General for the Wilyat’s Affairs in the Office of the Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar. In January 2017, he was elected Chairman of the Board of Al Morooj Dairy representing the Office of the State Minister and Governor of Dhofar.

Where does Al Morooj Dairy fit into the Sultanate's food security and self-sufficiency strategy?

The self-sufficiency strategy in the Sultanate starts with utilizing the country's resource potential, which is quite significant in fisheries, poultry and red meat, dairy and, to some scale, plant farming. These resources can form a good start and can viably cover a good portion of domestic demand for food if carefully selected investment were undertaken to develop them on commercial lines. By investing in milk collection and processing in Dhofar, which is a totally domestic resource-based investment, Al Morooj Dairy is setting forth a milestone for utilizing these resources toward contributing to food security, which in our case materializes in small-scale native livestock raising activities, natural pastures, and a suitable hosting environment. By undertaking this investment, Al Morooj will trigger small- and medium-sized investments across the Sultanate that can boost food production using domestic resources, an activity that will very much fit into country self-sufficiency in food.

How is Al Morooj Dairy's milk collecting project expected to impact Jebel herders?

One of the strategic purposes of our government for adopting a milk collection project was to utilize milk produced in the traditional sector but is wasted, and integrate small farmers' cow and camel raising activities into the mainstream production processes of the national economy. This sector has been growing in isolation from the speedily developed modern market economy since the start of the Omani Renaissance. It needs to be integrated into the formal economy if it should contribute to food security in a calculated and regulated manner. We anticipate that milk collection and processing shall have a transformational impact on the Jebel herders by reorienting their activities and driving the sector to a market context in the long term. The project will contribute to increasing farmers' income, downsizing herds by voluntary de-stocking, and controlling livestock raising to a modern farming style. We will likely encounter difficulties in the beginning. In the long term, however, we anticipate having a more business-oriented farmer society in Dhofar with the younger generation willingly involved in dairy production business, motivated by the profitable livestock raising environment that would be created by the project. Furthermore, the project will create job opportunities among the rural youth in modern dairy processing activities, which will form a total shift from traditional dairy skills to technically sophisticated processing skills.

How will investment in advanced processing technique help increase the quality and quantity of dairy in Oman?

Currently, farmers follow traditional processing methods that were passed down by their ancestors and, of course, that are limited in scale, with large waste in raw product. Investing in advanced processing will have unmistakable impacts on product quality and quantity. Advanced processing will introduce hygiene and animal health standards in the production and product process, and this will promote a better quality of products. This together with healthy packing and product classification will offer the now missing quality touches to the products. Today, only a negligible quantity of cow and camel milk reaches the market due to low hygiene standards, questionable production practices, and fierce competition from the modern dairy sector. Advanced processing will avail the opportunity to the community to sell all cow and camel milk it can offer through the permanent market outlets that would be created for them by the project. The project will also encourage farmers to concentrate on milk production, and hence, they would be likely to choose voluntarily de-stocking of non-productive animals and adopt modern breeding techniques to increase milk productivity and cutting cost per unit by producing more with fewer animals.