SOHAR Port and Freezone recently held the second webinar in its series with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) designed to increase visibility in the Indian market and highlight trade opportunities between SOHAR and Indian businesses. Conducted online, the webinar explored opportunities in SOHAR’s rapidly growing food cluster, an industry that has already yielded mutual benefits for Indian exporters and Omani distributors. It also featured three local success stories from Sohar Flour Mills, Oman Oilseeds Crushing Company SAOC and Al-Hosn Logistics and Warehousing Services.
Omar Al Mahrizi, CEO of SOHAR Freezone, said, “India is one of the Sultanate’s strongest trade partners in this cluster. The variety of high-quality produce and close proximity of producers in India to Oman makes this a sector where we can generate significant increases in traffic. There are already a large number of Indian companies in SOHAR Freezone, 35% of which are Indian, and while there is a strong will to become self-sufficient, the need for produce outstrips growth in Omani produce which stands at 6% per annum. We still have a huge trade deficit, importing 10 times the amount exported, which creates the potential for service providers to enter the market and for more employment opportunities to be created within the sector.”
India is the third largest partner country for food imports by value, behind Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands, however the volume of the imports suggest India is likely to become the largest exporter. Supplies of fruit, vegetables, cereals, rice, tea, coffee, spices, dairy, eggs and meat can be found throughout the country. In 2020, India exported almost 16,000 TEU of food products to Oman – 53% of which were fruits and vegetables. Rice, Basmati and non-Basmati varieties, accounted for a further 19% of imports. India also exports a large volume of – mostly frozen – meat to Oman, mainly poultry, buffalo, sheep and goat meat.
Food imports to the GCC region are projected to grow to over USD 53 Billion with a surrounding market of 2.2 Billion people as Oman relies on imports for up to 70% of all food produce. SOHAR Food Cluster, at Oman’s gateway to international trade, is ideally positioned at the crossroads of East-West. It also has its own dedicated agro-berth in the Port, as well as on-site processing facilities for key commodities including flour, sugar and edible oil.
SOHAR Port and Freezone’s location offers functional connectivity and global market access. The container terminal, managed by Hutchinson Ports Sohar, now has a 24/7 customs clearing service, specifically for agricultural products. The Port operates a customs clearing service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a bonded transport corridor between Port and Freezone which allows goods to reach their destination in under 14 minutes.
The Freezone is equipped with warehousing and cold storage, logistic service providers and is a vital logistics hub to move goods within the Gulf region. SOHAR offers access to raw materials as well as attractive incentives for downstream food processing and packaging. This potentially includes processing of cereals, bakery products, beverages, edible oils, confectionary, etc. The food packaging industry could benefit from the existing aluminium and plastic producers operating in SOHAR.