A strategic move by Oman’s authorities to scale up a fisheries port and adjoining fish processing complex under construction at the Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ) into wider hub for all kinds of food industries, effectively paves the way for the establishment of a dedicated food cluster on the Sultanate’s southeastern coast.
A decision to this effect was adopted at the maiden meeting of the Board of Directors of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ) late last year.
The Authority, which governs all of Oman’s SEZs and free zone developments, has since authorised a study to chart the way for the conversion of the fisheries port and fish processing park into a multipurpose gateway equipped to handle, in addition to fisheries, agro and meat produce as well.
Plans for the adjacent fish processing park will be similarly revamped to accommodate all kinds of food, agro and fisheries related investments.
Details about the emerging food cluster in Duqm have been outlined in the latest edition of Duqm Economist, the quarterly newsletter of OPAZ, issued earlier this week.
When operational, in a phased manner, Duqm has the potential to replicate the model adopted by Sohar Port and Freezone, which currently hosts the country’s biggest food cluster anchored by an Agro Terminal on the waterfront.
A grain silo, flour mill and sugar refinery under various stages of completion and operation within the port are connected to a sprawling food cluster located in the adjoining free zone development.
But given Duqm’s proximity to some of the richest fishing grounds in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, fisheries-based investments are expected to take precedence.
Fisheries Development Oman (FDO), the wholly government-owned fisheries sector investment flagship — part of Oman Investment Authority (OIA) — has already taken the lead in kickstarting the growth of a fisheries hub at Duqm.
Its wholly owned subsidiary Al Wusta Fisheries Industries LLC is set to play a pivotal role as well.
FDO is heading a consortium of local and international companies that has signed a deal with OPAZ to develop, operate and manage the multipurpose port at Duqm.
A key partner in the joint venture is French-based Lorient Keroman SEM, a specialist in the management and operation of fish harbours. Al Wusta Fisheries Industries and Oman Fisheries are partners as well.
Total investment pledged by the consortium into the development of the multipurpose port is RO 50 million.
As the leading player in the development of the port and Food Industries Cluster, Al Wusta Fisheries Industries is currently formulating a strategy to enhance food-related investment inflows into Duqm.
The company has also committed to investing in a major fish processing plant on a 100,000 sq metre site within the cluster.
Authorities also see the potential for food shipments to be airfreighted to international markets via Duqm Airport.
Excellent road connectivity between the SEZ and the airport will ensure that chilled and frozen agro, fish and meat products can be ferried to a modern air cargo terminal at the airport for temporary storage before they are loaded onto air-freighters.
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