This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 8/4/2017

Overview

The Omani government has been working on improving food security and production which is driven by investments in agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and sea fishing as the country looks for sustainable solutions to support a growing population and boost exports. In fisheries alone, the government aims to raise production from 257,172 tons a year in 2015 to 480,000 tons by 2020, creating 20,000 new jobs in the process. The five-year plan envisages a return of OR739m ($1.9bn) from fishing and fish processing facilities by 2020. Key projects within the sector include the Duqm Fishery Harbor with estimated investments of RO 100mn in addition to the adjoining industrial fisheries cluster.
 
Oman is uniquely positioned as an attractive site for commercial fisheries due to its 3,165 km coastline (offering 380 fishery landing sites), 400,000 square kilometer exclusive economic zone, ideal temperature conditions allowing for two shrimp cycles per year, and rich biodiversity, with more than 1,000 species of fish and marine invertebrates, including sardines, bluefish, mackerel, tuna, lobster, oysters, and abalone. The ocean shelf along the coast features a steep drop-off, which, combined with annual monsoons, results in seasonal “upswellings” of fertile nutrients from the sea depths to the shallower coastal waters. Oman’s low population density, strict regulation of trawling in its Exclusive Economic Zone, and minimal pollution have preserved these pristine conditions. Many local species, including abalone, mollusks, spiny lobsters, shrimp, kingfish, grouper, sea bream, and tuna, are of high economic value and could help fill the 40 million ton gap between global fish supply and demand expected by 2030. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth (MOAFW) estimates that aquaculture could represent a 220,000 ton/$500-900 million industry by the year 2030. However, the aquaculture sector is still emerging, with only one active fish farming company and significant room for investment. For example, only about 127 tons of shrimp is farmed currently.
 
The total weight of fish landed grew every year from 2006 to 2015, when it reached 257,172 tons. Of this, 254,767 tons was brought ashore by fishing crews in traditional artisanal boats working closely to the coast and 2024 tons was caught closer to shore. The impact of commercial fishing vessels operating further offshore has dwindled from a peak catch of 25,702 tons in 2009 to just 210 tons in 2015. Similarly, aquaculture made a modest contribution of 170 tons in 2015, down from a peak of 353 tons in 2013. In 2015 the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) granted licenses to 46,837 fishermen and 22,921 boats in the traditional fleet. In 2015 the country exported 121,332 tons of fish and imported 27,800 tons.
 
The United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, and the EU are the main foreign fish markets. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2016 Oman exported over 51,000 kg of seafood species covered under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, valued at over $600,000. The partly state-owned Oman Fisheries Company is Oman's largest processor and exporter of fish and seafood products, and the privately-held Al Marsa Fisheries Company also offers FDA-compliant facilities within Rusayl Industrial Estate.
 
Omani consumers are experiencing not only a shortage of fish in the Sultanate’s markets but also rising prices. Oman is a large consumer of fish at around 28 kg per person per year). Fish prices have been rising due to a growing population and demand from neighboring countries and tourist facilities. As one way of addressing this demand, the GoO is now encouraging the private sector to invest in fisheries and fish production with more innovative sustainable techniques, namely fish farming or aquaculture. The government has disallowed foreign trawling as of May 2011 in order to allow the Omani fishing sector to develop.

From August 7 to September 8, 2016, the MAF invited tenders for commercial aquaculture projects at a number of sites, ranging in size from 4.5 ha to 452.2 ha. These included land-based fish farms at three sites near Duqm, three more in the governorate of South A’Sharqiyah and another at Al Jiri in Muscat governorate. One of the sea-based farms is to be built at Dhabab, in Muscat. According to a briefing document prepared by the MAF in 2011, the government anticipated fish farm production of 33,700 tons by 2025, split between 19,000 tons from shrimp ponds, 4300 tons of bream and cobia from sea cages, and a further 10,000 tons of fish to be produced in marine and freshwater recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).
 
In June 2016, an agreement was signed to build a hatchery in Oman that will allow fish farms to restock with locally grown fingerlings (young fish) rather than going to the expense of importing stocks. The state-owned Oman Aquaculture Development Company and the MAF agreed to establish, operate and manage the Aquaculture Farming Centre at Al Bustan with the aim of producing 15m fingerlings annually. KAT-Aqua has been allotted 50,000 sq. metres in Sur to develop a fish farm using RAS technology that aims to produce 600 tons of orange spotted grouper annually.
 
Officials are moving forward with a UN Food and Agriculture Organization national strategic plan for the development of the aquaculture sector. Investment guidelines are in place, a state of the art aquaculture research and support center complete, suitable sites mapped, and national strategy and regulations issued. MOAFW’s latest feasibility study reveals production from fish farming could reach 10,000 tons per year in the first three years of development, and reach 36,000 tons per year in the following decade. The American market has a $9 billion seafood deficit, and is the top importer of high-value fish, such as the shrimp, cobia and abalone common to Oman. Oman is uniquely positioned to serve as a regional aquaculture hub with its ideal cold ocean drafts, well-equipped research center and quality control labs, and traditional fishing culture (although now in decline due to illegal overfishing and in need of greater productivity through sustainable fisheries). Oman is slated to join the World Aquaculture Society and currently hosts the Indian Ocean Rim Fish Support Unit, providing training on food safety, stock assessment, fish farming, and biology for Indian Ocean Rim member states. MOAFW officials and visiting experts have suggested that Oman could potentially serve as a regional “center of excellence” on aquaculture, and that a fishery “cluster” should be set up to serve the fledgling industry with shared services, expertise, and infrastructure.

 

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

  • Aquaculture & Mariculture (crustaceans such as shrimps, abalone, and mollusks such as mussels, and finfish such as salmon and kobia)

  • Biotechnology, including R&D activities using fish oil

  • Consultancy services on feasibility and design of aquaculture farms

  • Manufacture of fish feed

  • Fishing and other commercial & leisure /ship & boat building and maintenance

  • Fish processing, including tuna, and canning

  • Harbor and port development

  • Pearl cultivation

  • Tuna fattening

 

Opportunities

The MOAFW has specifically singled out a desire for American technology and expertise as the sector develops, which is a significant advantage for American companies. Investments providing employment for Omani fishermen, who have experienced yield declines due to illegal overfishing in Oman’s Exclusive Economic Zone in recent years, will be viewed most favorably by the GoO. The MOAFW has identified fisheries, support services (e.g., cold storage, pharma, and processing), and technology, e.g., fishery oxygen maintenance and data monitoring as potentially attractive areas of investment for U.S. companies. The Ministry has also determined that the most suitable production methods are: marine recirculation aquaculture system for European sea bream and sea bass and shrimp farming. The Ministry is targeting 500,000 tons of edible fish and another 400,000 tons of inedible fish production in Oman in the next 10 -12 years.
 
In January 2016 the Special Economic Zone Authority for Duqm, commonly known as SEZAD, floated tenders for a six-metre-deep, 600-ha fishery harbour that includes a 3.4-km quay with provisions for associated processing and canning facilities. The idea is eventually to have as many as 60 fish manufacturing facilities, including cooling and freezing stores, and fish farming facilities, as well as centers dedicated to training and research to serve and promote the fishing industry. In the summer of 2014 MOAFW and the Oman Investment Fund launched a specialized Agriculture and Fisheries Development Fund, and are seeking quality aquaculture projects.
 
Currently MOAFW offers the following financial incentives:
 

  • • Fish culturing systems: 80% of the fair value purchase price, up to RO 3,000.

  • • Small fish: 80% of the fair value purchase price, up to RO 1,000.

  • • Fish feed: 80% of the fair value purchase price, up to RO 2,000.

  • • Equipment and devices: 80% of the fair value purchase price, up to RO 1,000.

 
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Regional Agricultural Trade Office in Dubai report on agricultural issues and statistics for member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council except for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Agricultural research reports and statistics can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (FAS) web sites as follows:


Web Resources

Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Wealth
Dr. Fahad S. Ibrahim, Ph.D
Director
Aquaculture Center
Tel: +968 24743580
E-mail: fahadajmi@gmail.com; fahad.ajmi@mofw.gov.om
 
H.E. Hamed Said Al-Oufi, Ph.D
Undersecretary for Fisheries Wealth
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth
P. O. Box 427, PC 100 Muscat
Sultanate of Oman
Tel. +968-24688112
Fax. +968-24697020
Email: hamed.oufi@mofw.gov.om
 
Khalid al-Yahmadi
Agriculture & Fisheries Development Fund
Oman Investment Fund
E-mail: khalid@oif.om
Tel: +968- 2464-3018
 
International Boston Seafood Show
Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development
U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service –Dubai
Oxford Business Group

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Oman Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion