Many farmers have suffered financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic as exports as well as demand in local markets dwindled, according to Saed Abdullah Rashid al Kharusi, chairman of Omani Agriculture Association.
Statistics released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information indicate a 10.71 per cent decrease in vegetable prices in January 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Kharusi said, “Vegetable prices fell this year due to the pandemic. Omani vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber and pepper are available in abundance. Many farmers lost money due to the suspension of exports to some countries.”
He attributed the exit of a significant number of expatriates from the country in the past year and the fact that many citizens don’t savour vegetables among other reasons contributing to the farmers’ losses.
“Many malls, restaurants and hotels are ordering less due to drop in sales. Omani farmers are selling tomato cartons for 300bz now. This amount does not cover the costs of farming, packaging and marketing,” Kharusi said.
He informed that to alleviate farmers’ woes, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources has reduced imports of some vegetables. “But the greatest hope is in exports. Our association expects that in the beginning of March, some Gulf states will require Omani vegetable imports.”
To assess the situation, Dr Ahmed bin Nasser al Bakri, Undersecretary for Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, the Oman representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Omani Company for Agricultural Production and Marketing, a specialist from the Industrial Innovation Centre and some officials of the ministry conducted a field visit to the governorates of North and South Batinah on February 15.
The visit included farms in Sohar, Saham, Suwaiq and Mussanah and aimed to learn about the application of safety and quality standards for vegetable products. They also discussed an agricultural marketing plan, including opening new markets in some wilayats and a contract farming system.
Kharusi said that Omani Agriculture Association is exerting all efforts to strengthen the sector. “Currently, the association has branches in North Batinah, Dhahirah, North and South Sharqiyah, Dakhliyah and Dhofar to support Omani farmers.”
Khamis Saleh al Salhi, who grows pepper on 21 acres of land in the wilayat of Suwaiq, North Batinah, said, “We exported to several countries, including Japan. But we are losing a lot of money now due to the suspension of exports. There is oversupply of vegetables in Oman markets as there is production but little demand. We hope this pandemic ends soon so we can start exporting.”