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OMIFCO

OMAN - Agriculture

Dr. Ahmed Al Marhoubi

CEO, Oman India Fertilizer Company (OMIFCO)

Bio

Ahmed Said Al Marhoubi is the CEO of OMIFCO. Before becoming CEO, he was OMIFCO’s CFO and has been a part of its Senior Management team since 2012. He has more than 14 years of experience in strategy, finance, and accounts and risk management areas across different industries. Internationally, he is currently the Chairman of the Arab Fertilizer Association (AFA), and has been a board member of AFA since 2016. He has been a member of the Agri-nutrients Committee of the Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemical Industries (GPCA) since 2015. Al Marhoubi holds DBA from the Cyprus International University, Cyprus, an MBA from the University of Bedfordshire, UK, and a Bachelor of Accounting from the College of Commerce and Economics of Sultan Qaboos University.

As a leading fertilizer manufacturer in Oman and a key player in GCC, OMIFCO recognizes its vital role in achieving food security in the region and globally.
TBY talks to Dr. Ahmed Al Marhoubi, CEO of Oman India Fertilizer Company (OMIFCO), about technology, sustainability, and the future of agriculture in Oman.
Could you tell us about some of your recent projects and their impact on food security and manufacturing?

As a leading fertilizer manufacturer in Oman and a key player in GCC, OMIFCO recognizes its vital role in achieving food security in the region and globally. Excellence in operational reliability is a critical factor in ensuring that OMIFCO continues to support the farming community in Oman and ensure the timely supply of fertilizers in the global markets. Some of the vital projects undertaken by OMIFCO include the implementation of Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) and Reliability maintenance (RCM) to enhance operational reliability. Since early 2023, we initiated and completed some highly critical jobs to ensure Business Continuity such as replacement of Urea reactor, Ammonia catalyst converter basket and revamp of Ammonia primary reformer tubes. OMIFCO recognizes its role as a critical stakeholder in addressing food security in the Sultanate of Oman and globally. We have always been at the forefront of making a meaningful contribution to enhancing food security locally. Some of our initiatives include providing urea at subsidized prices for local farmers, distributing farm equipment, providing refrigerated trucks for farmers, and mobile veterinary clinics. OMIFCO is also setting up school greenhouses to get young Omanis’ attention and shape their minds on farming methodologies.

What is your assessment of the measures and initiatives being taken within the fertiliser and agricultural sector in Oman in terms of reducing the carbon footprint? What is OMIFCO doing to augment sustainable practices?

OMIFCO has been actively pursuing renewables as an alternative energy source to diversify its energy sources, making them more environment-friendly and lowering carbon emissions. OMIFCO is currently exploring various decarbonization initiatives and is currently exploring all the proven technologies and options under renewable energy, green hydrogen, green ammonia, CCUS, and other low-carbon opportunities. OMIFCO achieved ISO 50001 Certification for Energy Management Systems (EnMS) in 2023. Oman Government’s proactive push to become net zero by 2050 is a testament to its unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability. The government has undertaken several measures and initiatives, including developing renewable energy sources like solar energy. In 2023, Oman further solidified its commitment by signing three agreements expected to generate half a million tonnes of green hydrogen annually.

How is technology, such as drones, AI, climate-focused farming, and automation for inventory tracking boosting business efficiency in the sector? How does this technology contribute to improving food security?

Leveraging technological advancements will enable the agricultural sector to increase yields and reach the overarching goal of global food security. Precision farming is an example that encompasses the Global Positioning System (GPS), utilizing drones, satellites for field imaging, AI for prediction, and climate-smart farming. Precision farming also enables farmers to decide when to irrigate and assess how much fertilizer is required for the crop, addressing the risk of over-application. As investments in innovation in precision farming pour in, the cost concerns can be addressed, thereby enhancing the ease of accessibility of these tools.

Does Oman have the potential to become an agricultural and food security hub for the entire GCC region?

Oman’s agricultural policy is focused on food security, with agriculture and fisheries sectors benefiting significantly from the Government’s increased initiatives in Oman’s bid to reduce dependence on food imports. Oman has initiated several agriculture, fisheries, and water investment projects. Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Water Resources has set up multiple cloud seeding stations nationwide to boost rainfall.

What are the major challenges you expect to face in the coming years?

Fertilizer markets have been witnessing challenging market conditions since the historic highs of 2022. We are monitoring the developments closely.

What is your outlook for 2024?

We will continue to focus on the energy transition process while enhancing energy efficiency, ensuring the production of high-quality urea while minimizing the environmental impact, and supporting the local agriculture sector. We will continue investing in developing local talent and SMEs, enhancing our ICV, and ultimately supporting the Government’s objectives in diversifying Oman’s economy.

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