LIFTING THE INDUSTRY

Oman 2020 | AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES | INTERVIEW

By following best practices from around the world and employing new technologies, Oman is ready to give its agribusiness industry the boost it needs.

Ahmed Akaak
BIOGRAPHY

Ahmed Akaak is currently the Chairman of ONLDC and the Deputy CEO at the Port of Salalah. Akaak has been with the port since January 2000, where he has worked in several key positions including chief corporate officer and general manager for human resources.

What are the major challenges and biggest gaps facing the agricultural industry and agribusiness in Oman?
Most of the challenges that farmers and agribusiness face are mostly related to efficiency. Oman has a great deal of natural resources and one of the richest fisheries, and we need to make sure our fresh and canned fish can reach the market in a good state and timeframe. We need to seek help from agri-partners in countries that have a solid structure for our sector. We cannot rely on the conventional processes we were used to. With Tanfeedh, we have seen great progress; the right warehousing and supply chain are present. Then, we should have a calibration between logistics and agricultural products so we can capture our share of this market in the region.

Does development need to come mostly from public sector initiatives for the time being or should the private sector drive this?
This could be achieved through PPPs and other arrangements. We need to look more at the private sector with government arms such as Oman Global Logistics Group (ASYAD) and Oman Investment and Finance Co. (OIFC) playing a part in supporting and motivating key investors. The government should use its strength as a key advocate to help SMEs play a part in the industry, creating many jobs for Omanis. It could bridge the gaps between OIFC and ASYAD to help young Omanis, who have been using conventional processing in the past, to either create new manufacturing plants or use new production chains. If people can see the effort and approach in each region and company in Oman, they can see there is a platform that applies across the country. Oman could generate a solid revenue from this, though it will never happen unless we invest in the entire supply chain. We should use our strengths and engage with partners in other areas to lift our practices and industry to global standards.

What role do foreign players have in ensuring global standards are achieved?
We should look at the farmers in Brazil or the Netherlands. Those countries have the best practices when it comes to consumable items and supply chain outcomes. We could associate with those companies to help us with the set up in our industry. We first need to secure the local market and then build up the volume we need to generate sales out of this market. In addition, we need to build a reputation, and for that we need to look for global strategic partners, such as retail outlets. Now, most of our exports go to certain markets, though people do not see that these products meet certain international standards when it comes to handling, processing, grading, and so on. Now, with the government support and the introduction of best practices, this should give consumers the comfort they seek. We need to ensure that Omani products overseas sit unique and exceptional, with their own identity. We need to collaborate to properly market ourselves.

How will innovation come into play in this massive transformation, and will the new technology come from within Oman or from abroad?
We need to look wherever the best automated processes are being used. Some of our products can easily be damaged unless there is efficiency behind their handling and processing. We need the best solutions to replace traditional processes. It will be costly for people to shift from one system to another; however, that is the only way we can sustain our businesses into the future. We have a younger generation today that is focused on technology and driven to get there. Today, people have tracking systems and other equipment that allow them to build greater efficiency. We should not resist these developments. We should be open-minded and embrace all new technology and innovation that can drive excellence in our processes.