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OM24_AG_FDO_Idris Al Balushi

OMAN - Agriculture

Idris Al Balushi

Group CFO, Fisheries Development Oman (FDO)

Bio

Idris Al Balushi is Group CFO of Fisheries Development Oman (FDO).

"The fisheries industry is a cornerstone of Oman Vision 2040."
Fisheries and aquaculture play a vital role in Oman’s diversification strategy. What has been the role of FDO in the consolidation of the sector, and how is it currently promoting the available investment opportunities?

FDO was established in 2020 as the investment arm of the Oman Investment Authority in the fisheries sector, and it focuses on three pillars. The first is commercial fishing, where our subsidiary Al Wusta Fisheries Industries LLC works currently on both small and large pelagic fish. FDO’s role in this is to secure additional investment opportunities for Oman and position both the company and Oman as leaders in economic diversification. The second pillar that FDO focuses on is aquaculture, where it works in shellfish and fish farming, processing facilities, and commercialization. Finally, FDO places great importance on developing value-added fisheries products and services, such as ongoing projects for state-of-the-art fish-canning facilities, in addition to specialized fisheries port in Duqm, and many more to come. The fisheries industry is a cornerstone of Oman Vision 2040. In fact, it is the sector that is expected to see the most substantial growth in terms of contribution to the GDP.

How is FDO currently supporting foreign investors to venture into Oman’s fishery sector, and to what extent can businesses such as developing fishery value-added products or new species be attractive to them?

Oman sits on undiscovered treasure, with a long coastal line and great biomass. In recent years, many investors have come to work and invest in Oman. In order to showcase Oman’s advantages to key players in the fisheries industry, FDO has participated in several exhibitions on different continents. We have received a great deal of interest and have signed MoUas with leading companies in the sector. For example, we have worked with renowned agents who purchase our products and export them to different countries, expanding our global reach. In addition, several discussions have taken place regarding equity partnerships. Some are ongoing, some have materialized, and we are in advanced stages of signing agreements with investors who will bring important expertise from Europe to Oman. We will also enter into a few joint ventures soon.

The GCC places great importance on food security. How has FDO been working to position itself as a food provider in the region and elsewhere?

As the only net exporter of fisheries products in the GCC region, FDO has a competitive advantage over its peers in terms of food security. We have been exporting our fisheries products to different countries for many years, and our current focus is maximizing the yield for our nation. Instead of exporting raw materials, we are working to add value to them and generate more revenues for our economy. Also, by focusing on sustainable practices and expanding our product offerings, we aim to play a pivotal role in regional and global food security initiatives.

Digitalization and sustainability are becoming the pillars of growth strategies across different sectors. How is FDO advancing on these fronts, and what are the main results of its flagship initiatives in these fields?

Sustainability is a core value of our company. We therefore prioritize sustainability practices, ensuring that our projects are sustainable, add value to shareholders, and provide high-quality service offerings to our nation and beyond. Sustainability is becoming even more vital for the long-term viability of our business, with growing consumer concerns regarding the environmental footprint of food production. Our commitment to sustainability is further reinforced by our numerous certifications, including the prestigious Friend of the Sea and Best Aquaculture Practice, which serve as tangible proof of our dedication to sustainable practices. On the other hand, digitalization is equally vital to us. For example, we work alongside our strategic partners to use technology to reduce labor-intensive operations. These initiatives include automating feeding processes and utilizing technology to monitor offshore cages, reducing reliance on manual labor and increasing efficiency. This will help us boost our food conversion ratio and improve our financial performance.

What are FDO’s priorities for 2024?

FDO’s top priority for 2024 is to successfully execute our new five-year business plan, which aims to contribute significantly to Oman’s GDP and create a ripple effect across various sectors, in alignment with Oman Vision 2040. Our top priorities for the year include optimizing our assets for profitability and efficiency, developing local talent to excel in the fisheries industry, pursuing opportunities for international fishing, paving the way to restoring Oman’s maritime heritage and positioning the country as a key player in the global fisheries market.

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