Although the tough world fiscal climate has left many economies relatively stagnant, Oman has seen annual growth rate in both its fishing and agriculture sectors of 11.5% and 6.3% respectively. The agriculture sector has achieved a remarkable progress during the last four decades. The growth rate exceeded 10% during the last five-year development plan, which is far beyond the target set in the Vision 2020. This was achieved despite the fact that Oman is geographically located in a difficult climate zone resulting in limited rainfall and therefore limited availability of ground water and other water resources.
According to the Omani Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Fuad Jafar Al Sajwani
, “Almost one-tenth of the population either work in or live on these two sectors. That is why the government is so keen to support these activities and provide lucrative subsidies to them.”
In fact, within the fishing sector, which makes up 0.5% of the country’s total GDP, the government has put significant measures in place to prevent overfishing and ensure the sustainability of national fisheries.
“As we are endeavouring to transform the fishing sector into a modern one this should be carried out in a more sustainable manner and in harmony with the environment,” explained Dr Hamed Said Al Oufi, Undersecretary for Fisheries Wealth
, noting that around 95% of fish production in Oman comes from traditional methods. “We look for strategic partners and companies that are more socially responsible and have a more sustainable approach.”
Furthermore, Omani fisheries export more than half of their nearly 160,000 tonnes of fish per year mainly to countries in the GCC, Asia and Europe.
Oman is also currently implementing fish farming, which the minister believes will unleash “huge untapped potential.” Fish farming is a most promising activity for economic diversification in Oman. The foundations have been laid and we are seeking experienced, committed and technically competent companies to benefit from the opportunities presented. The sector will provide new business opportunities, employment for young Omanis and will maintain the competitiveness of the Sultanate at regional and international levels of the fish farming industry.
Besides fisheries, agriculture plays an important role in Oman, with over 70,000 hectares of cultivated area. Agricultural production has been augmented by effective management and utilisation of the available resources, i.e. applying modern irrigation systems, using green houses, and adopting hydroponics and other techniques. In order to sustain the sector, which makes up 0.8% of the national GDP, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is developing a national strategy to protect water resources and increase productivity, using advanced technology not only for pest control, but also to control diseases with the livestock, two-thirds of which is goats.
The Omani government has placed considerable importance on both its agriculture and fishing industries, which Dr Al Sajwani calls “the backbone of the economy.” He adds that the ministry’s hard work will encourage future investments: “We are committed to developing an advanced, sustainable and socially responsible sector that will provide attractive returns to investors and lasting benefits to Oman.”