Oman Aims to Acquire Wheat Farmland in Australia
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Oman Flour Mills (OFM), a significant player in the country’s food sector, says it is exploring a proposal to acquire farmland in Australia to secure its Wheat requirements over the long term. According to Salah Hilal al Maawali, Chairman of the publicly listed company’s board of directors, Atyab Investments, the investment arm of Oman Flour Mills (OFM), is keenly exploring the initiative.
“A proposal to purchase farming lands was presented to OFM,” said Al Maawali. “The company is currently evaluating more potential sites in Australia for farming land acquisition,” he stated in the Directors’ report of the company’s financial performance for Q3 2022. A key partner in Oman’s food security strategy, OFM’s minority Government stake is represented by Oman Food Investment Holding Group (Nitaj), an Oman Investment Authority (OIA) subsidiary.
Atyab Investments is currently exploring an array of new projects in line with OFM’s strategy to integrate across the value chain and drive diversification within the group. One initiative that is set to materialize shortly is Oman Flour Mills’ plan to venture into the production of foods based on organic flour. To this end, the company has ordered a shipment of organic flour, which will arrive shortly in the country. According to the chairman, organic flour-based products will be launched during the current quarter.
Furthermore, it looks at sustainable food projects based on alternative protein sources. It includes insect farming to sustainably support the animal feed requirements of Oman’s burgeoning livestock, poultry, and aquaculture sectors. Another area of innovation being looked at by Oman Flour Mills is farming Spirulina – cyanobacteria from blue-green algae species, which can be processed into nutritive products consumed by humans and animals alike. A third area of interest is the cultivation of water lentils – a plant with a roughly 45 – 48 percent protein content that can be used as a soybean meal replacement in animal feed.
The Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), the food investment and development arm of the Omani Government, says it plans to set up 23 new food-related ventures at a cost of around RO 366 million over the next five years (2022-2026). Presenting its outlook at the OIA briefing in Apr 2022, the Group CEO Eng Saleh al Shanfari said the new investments would seek to unlock the food sector’s potential. Investments are also planned in tourism agreements, contract farming, and other initiatives.
In 2022 alone, OFIC had plans to set up six projects at a cost of RO 71 million. They pertain to establishing vegetable and fruit collection centers, animal feed production, cotton farming, expansion of the Mazoon Dairy project, completion of the Al Namaa Poultry Project, and the Agriculture Project Tourist. In 2021, Group investments totaled RO 117.6 million, with as many as 15 projects in various stages of development. Seven of these ventures are in operation – spanning dairy, red meat, fodder, and Grain.
OMAUS Pty – Oman’s Grain Trading Arm
Of late, Grain-producing powerhouse Australia is increasingly on OFM’s radar as a potential source of Wheat for its operations and to secure Oman’s food security needs. To this end, the company has set up a local trading firm, OMAUS Pty, to help secure Grain supplies from Australia. Significantly, OMAUS Pty has signed a contract with a local Australian grower to purchase 30,000 metric tonnes of Australian premium Wheat (APW). The first shipment of this Wheat was expected to arrive in Muscat by February 2023, said Al Maawali. According to AgFlow data, Oman imported 20,000 tons of Wheat from Australia in Q1 2023. During the period, Russia supplied 182,400 tons of Wheat to Oman.
Other sources: OMAN OBSERVER
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