Key milestones: Construction of the sugar refinery will commence around mid-year, while work on a food processing cluster will kick off before the year-end
Construction work on a long-awaited sugar refinery project as well as a large-scale food processing cluster at Sohar Port and Freezone is expected to get under way this year. When fully operational, both ventures will help fuel the growth of a full-fledged agro-food processing industry at the maritime gateway.
According to a senior port official, initial groundwork on the world-scale sugar refinery project — the first of its kind in the Sultanate — will commence shortly. Planned on its heels is the development of an ambitious food processing cluster backed by a leading UAE promoter.
“The Oman Sugar Refinery project will now commence piling operations with a view to starting construction in the middle of the year’’, said Robert Bartstra, Executive Commercial Manager – Sohar Port and Freezone.
Oman Sugar Refinery Company (OSRC), backed by a Tanzanian-based Omani investor, had signed an agreement for the establishment of a state-of-the-art refinery on a waterfront site within the port.
Plans, as revealed by the promoters back in 2013, envisage a capacity of 700,000 tonnes per annum of refined sugar in the first phase, eventually ramping up to 1 million tonnes per annum in Phase 2.
In addition, the Sohar Food Cluster Company, which will be located in between the Sohar Flour Mills and the Sugar Refinery, is expected to start their construction by end-2021, said the Executive Commercial Manager.
The dedicated food processing cluster project is being spearheaded by Essa Al Ghurair Investments (AGI), a prominent UAE business conglomerate. Its proximity to the flour mill and sugar refinery will enable Sohar Food Cluster Company to focus on the development of value chains in the food sector.
In written remarks to the Observer, Bartstra said Sohar Port has ambitious to further strengthen its position in securing the Sultanate’s long-term food requirements.
“The food cluster in Sohar Port and Freezone consists of import and export facilities, both bulk and containerised, in the port. In addition, there are a number of facilities in the port, both in operation and under construction, to handle and process food commodities’’, he stated.
A key element of the Food Cluster already in operation since December 2018 is Sohar Flour Mills with an annual capacity of 216,000 metric tonnes (MT). Under construction nearby is a complex of 12 grain silos, which will also be operated by Sohar Flour Mills. Besides supporting local demand, Sohar Flour Mills also exports to the GCC countries, East Africa and Yemen, he said.
Significantly, all of the support infrastructure necessary to underpin the growth of a promising food processing industry in the port are already in place, he pointed out.
“The Sohar Freezone has a number of warehouse operators, with both dry and temperature controlled facilities, that allow both storage and distribution of food products.
Linked to the existing port import and export facilities, the Sohar Freezone is also actively pursuing opportunities for food processing and packaging activities as well as food logistics services. This could include processing of cereals, bakery products, beverages, edible oils, confectionary, etc.
Packaging industry could benefit from the existing aluminium and plastic producers already operating in Suhar’’, said Bartstra.
Furthermore, the Freezone boasts of a number of advantages to investors, including 100 per cent foreign ownership, attractive local labour requirements, 0 per cent import/export duties and 0 per cent income tax, as well as a dedicated One-Stop-Shop service to acquire all registrations, licenses and visas, he pointed out.
“Apart from this and the world-class logistics services in the port, Sohar Port and Freezone is managed by one entity, and has a bonded corridor between port and free zone, which allows for easy flow of goods, as well as optimum choice in terms of location for tenants.
The container terminal, managed by Hutchinson Ports Sohar, now also has a 24/7 customs clearing service, specifically for agricultural products’’, he added.
Source: Oman Observer