Oman Flour Mills (OFM), a major player in the country’s food sector, says it is exploring a proposal to acquire farm land in Australia as part of its strategy 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, the initiative is being keenly explored by Atyab Investments, the investment arm of Oman Flour Mills (OFM).
“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), a subsidiary of Oman Investment Authority (OIA).
Of late, grain producing powerhouse Australia is increasingly on OFM’s radar as a potential source of wheat for its operations, as well as to secure Oman’s food security needs. To this end, the company has set up a local trading firm, named OMAUS Pty, to help secure grain supplies from Australia.
Significantly, OMAUS Pty has signed a contract with a local Australian grower for the purchase of 30,000 metric tonnes of Australian premium wheat (APW). The first shipment of this wheat is expected to arrive in Muscat by February 2023, said Al Maawali.
Additionally, Atyab Investments is currently exploring an array of new projects in line with OFM’s strategy to integrate across the value chain, as well as drive diversification within the group.
One initiative that is set to shortly materialize is Oman Flour Mills’ plan to venture into the production of foods based on organic flour. To this end, the company has placed an order for a shipment of organic flour which is due to arrive shortly in the country. Organic flour-based products will be launched during the current quarter, according to the chairman.
Furthermore, it is actively looking at sustainable food projects based on alternative protein sources. It includes insect farming with the goal 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 the farming of 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 per cent protein content that can be used as a soybean meal replacement in animal feed. Additionally, water lentils can also be used in nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and FMCG products.
Besides, the company is studying the possible cultivation of Azola – a floating plant leaf, dubbed ‘The Green Goldmine’, because of its potential use as a bio-fertilizer, animal feed, and also in its ability to improve the nutritional status of soils. Similar in appearance to water lentils, Azola has about 25 – 28 per cent protein, and can be used in the production of medicines and nutritive foods for human consumption.