When we learned in May 2023 of Oman's intention to expand the aquaculture sector in the country through 12 new projects, we were not talking about shrimp but about salmon, tuna, kofer fish, sea bass, or abalone. However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources (MAFWR) has now revealed that a total of six shrimp farming projects were operating in different governorates of the country by the end of 2023 worth OMR 134 million, equivalent to EUR 323 million (USD 348 million).
Coinciding with this news, the local media Muscat Daily has reported that MAFWR will undertake five new aquaculture projects in 2024 in addition to those started last year. Precisely, while presenting the figures on shrimp farms, the Director of the Fish Farming Development Department at MAFWR, Dr. Issa Mohammed Al Farsi, said the Ministry is planning to both augment the system of biosecurity in fish farms and open up new markets for Omani exports of fish farming products.
"The plan seeks to consolidate the added value of national fish farming products and enhance the local market with different, high-quality products," he stated.
Statistics published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources indicate that, due to its vast saline lands and proximity to the sea, the governorate of South A'Sharqiyah is the area of Oman that led the way in hosting the largest number of shrimp farming projects.
The Director of the Fish Farming Development Department highlighted the direct and indirect economic benefits that these farms provide to the areas where they are developed. "Of all fish farming projects, the shrimp farms generated new sources of income for citizens," he said.
Al Farsi explained that ordinary citizens, those working in transportation and owners of small and medium-sized businesses now buy products directly from shrimp farms and sell them in local markets or export them to neighboring countries. In this way, he noted, shrimp farms "benefit citizens in many ways."
The Director of the Fish Farming Development Department also revealed MAFWR's plans to establish five new aquaculture projects during the year just begun.
According to information from Muscat Daily, among the projects planned for 2024, Issa Mohammed Al Farsi highlighted a white-legged shrimp venture in Jaalan Bani Bu Ali, also in South A'Sharqiyah, and the second phase of the abalone aquaculture project in Mirbat, Dhofar governorate. The other projects to complete the five planned are one located in Barka (South Batinah), and two marine finfish projects in Khasab (Musandam Governorate) and Seeb (Muscat Governorate).
They all add to the great boost that Oman has given to its aquaculture in recent years, especially since in 2016 the Tanfeedh program - overseen by the Oman Vision 2040 Implementation Follow-up Unit (ISFU) - identified the country's aquaculture potential as one of the priority sectors to attract investment. The country's diverse native species and extensive geography are great assets to support the growth of the sector.