“Al Khaleej Grand Mills as part of Attaya international Investment LLC is among the largest industrial flour mills in the Sultanate of Oman, with a designed milling capacity of up to 2400 MT/day. Our products are available in 90% of bakeries in Oman and we are the main supplier for the major big bakeries who produced more than 50% of Arabic bread in the Sultanate. Our location in Sohar has given us the advantage of exporting our product easily to nearby countries.”
Said bin Salim bin Said Al-Buraiki
Al Khaleej Grand Mills, Oman
We have an esteemed guest for Miller Magazine’s Technology Platform section: Mr. Said bin Salim bin Said Al-Buraiki, Chairman of Al Khaleej Grand Mills. Situated in Sohar, Sultanate of Oman, an ideal location for business as it lies at the center of global trade routes between Europe and Asia, Al Khaleej Grand Mills is among the largest industrial flour mills in the country. It has a milling capacity of up to 2400 MT/day.
“The goal of founding Al Khaleej Grand Mills was to establish a company that contributes to achieve food security and sustainable industrial development in the Sultanate of Oman and the neighboring countries,” says Mr. Said. Highlighting the favorable geostrategic position, Mr. Said explains that the location in Sohar gives them the advantage of exporting their products easily to nearby countries.
Here are Mr. Said’s comments on Al Khaleej Grand Mills’ mission, state of the Oman milling industry and flour consumption trends in the country.
Mr. Said, could you please provide us with some brief background information on your company?
It was the vision of late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said (may Allah have mercy on him), that the private sector should be engaged in the food industry and strengthen efforts in the field of national food security that sowed the seeds for the formation of Al Khaleej Grand Mills, the first wholly-owned flour company by the private sector in the Sultanate of Oman.
The founders joined hands with the global expert in the field of mills, Mr. Abdulaziz Kheiri (Ex-Partner), who hailed from a business family owning different kinds of mills in the Kingdom of Morocco and North Africa. Together, we created a modern and distinctive industrial entity that would make the Sultanate and the Gulf region proud of. Al Khaleej Grand Mills was set up, conforming to the highest international standards. Today, as one of the leaders in the field, we acknowledge their contribution and laud their efforts.
The goal of founding Al Khaleej Grand Mills was to establish a company that contributes to achieve food security and sustainable industrial development in the Sultanate of Oman and the neighboring countries. Also, to gain the confidence of our stakeholders and business associates, through the implementation of our projects. Towards meeting this objective, we strive to maintain the highest standards of quality, using state-of-the-art technology. Also, we are proud of our well-qualified, high-experienced team who came from different cultures and backgrounds but worked in harmony to serve high-quality products in the market. The production, quality and R&D work as one team in product development and continuous improvement of existing products.
What kind of role does Al Khaleej Grand Mills in its sector?
The basic principle underlying our operations at Al Khaleej Grand Mills is "Quality First". This hallmark of excellence enables us to continuously deliver added value to our customers, partners, and employees.
We can produce a wide range of various products, meets the different customer's expectation. Moreover, we have designed our various products to reflect the satisfaction of the different consumers we strive to serve daily.
Our location in Sohar, which is 108 km only from the United Arab Emirates, 183 km from the Saudi Arabia border and 103 km from Muscat has given us the advantage of exporting our product easily to nearby countries, in addition to the advantage of Sohar port location in Arab Sea.
We are committed to building long-term relationships through the continuous improvement of our products and manufacturing quality. We aim to exceed our customers' expectations in terms of quality, service, and value.
Our range of products is synonymous with quality, consistency, strict hygiene, added value, flexibility and timely supply. This has brought us a happy list of customers that includes national food chains, distributors and mechanized bakeries. We also meet the needs of wholesale grain markets across the Sultanate. Our products are available in 90% of bakeries in Oman and we are the main supplier for the major big bakeries who produced more than 50% of Arabic bread in Oman. Hence our unique methodology of milling and commitment to quality enables us to introduce new and improved products for our customers, regularly. We are committed to providing the premium brand of ATAYA products, to enhance and build a good reputation for the company. This has carved a niche for Al Khaleej Grand Mills to be ranked among the most reputed Omani companies in terms of expertise, sound management and wise business practices across the board. These factors have paved our way to be at the forefront of the competition and to provide the best of products at attractive prices.
Could you give us detailed information about your facility?
Al Khaleej Grand Mills as part of Attaya international Investment LLC is among the largest industrial flour mills in the Sultanate of Oman, with a designed milling capacity of up to 2400 MT/day. We have hi-tech industrial machinery developed in co-operation with our partner's experts in milling machinery, which guarantee the production of the best types of flour.
Our state-of-the-art machinery imported from Turkey and indigenous custom-made machines and equipment ensure optimum production with the best quality products. Continuous monitoring and regular checks and preventive maintenance by our expert and qualified technical team, help the plant run smoothly without any breakdowns.
We understand customer requirements and match their expectations, using the latest technologies and an efficient quality management system. We measure our level of achievement by defining the quality objectives, executing the required corrective and preventive actions, and adhering to the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Leveraging the expertise of our team of researchers, laboratory analysts and flour experts, we craft pioneering formulas that meet the demands of the market and serve our customers’ diverse requirements.
Al Khaleej Grand Mills aims to lead the industry and meet quality standards in Oman. What are the vision and strategic plan to achieve these targets?
We aim to lead the industry and meet quality standards, we are committed to build and maintain our society and meet the needs for the welfare of the community. We always seek to take decisions and actions in our business within a framework of values, ethics and legal considerations. And to commit to our customers the partnership and bearing responsibility for our actions, which we think will build trust with our customers and suppliers based on the right practices. It has been always our mission to strive achieving excellence in our products and services through effective and optimal communication and to work to promote positive results with our partners and customers in terms of providing the best quality products. I think that will help us making strategic partnerships with various local and international economic experienced sectors, establishing a global food industrial edifice, and place the brand (ATAYA) among the best brands in the food field.
ATAYA: THE FLAGSHIP BRAND
‘ATAYA’ the flagship brand of Al Khaleej Grand Mills has already become an insignia of quality and trust in the agro-products market. This brand has become a ‘go-to’ choice for major retailers in the local as well as the national market. Al Khaleej Grand Mills produces all the wheat-based products under this brand name, acting as a crucial step in forging the market identity and name recognition of the company.
The company holds all the required certifications needed for the Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. We hold certifications reflecting the strict adherence to standards and parameters set by the government.
Could you give us some information about the Oman flour milling industry?
The flour milling industry in Oman started earlier in 1970th. Oman Flour Mills Company was the first established company in 1977 as a public limited company, with a current capacity of 1000 MT daily. 18 years later, Salalah Flour Mills was founded in 1995, with a current daily capacity of 1500 MT. Until 2017 those are the only companies in Oman when Al Khaleej Grand Mills was established with an initial capacity of 500Mt/Day.
Population in Oman has increased recently, which encourages the development of the flour mill industry. The mills have a large capacity on wheat without any restrictions but are fully booked for wheat flour. Approximately 96% of the mills' production is for the local market, although the mills were recently exporting wheat flour directly to Yemen and East Africa. We import the raw materials in bulk from Australia, Russia, Canada to Oman through Salah, Muscat and Sohar ports. The different location for these three mills enables each to distribute the final products in nearby districts. The milling industry has grown and developed, the mills are now using the latest technology from famous flour mills manufacturers, local Omani staff is now participating in the technical division in the mills such as milling, quality as well as sales and logistics.
What are the major challenges the Oman milling industry facing today?
One of the major challenges is the market size. Although Oman's population has increased recently, the market size is still small as compared with the mills' capacities. Also, the wheat flour supplies from nearby countries create hard competition for the local mills. Although the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market is opened for all countries, Oman flour mills still far late entering the market. The mindset focusing on local products and local customers must be changed.
On the other hand, factors like the lack of raw materials and high cost, the lack of skilled workers, visas for foreign workers and the high-interest rate of business loans, are at the top of the list of the challenges. The most significant internal obstacles are competitive pressure in the market, the difficulty of external marketing, high labour cost and high operating cost. The need for strategic intervention by regulatory agencies and government sectors, primarily aimed to mitigate the various challenges and provide a conducive environment for enterprises to develop.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the grain market in your country and region?
The world has been living with coronavirus through most of 2020, and, unfortunately, the pandemic shows little sign of abating, especially in the early months of 2021. Ensuring that safety standards are upheld in the industry is crucial to maintaining the high level of trust that consumers have in food manufacturers presently. This includes making sure that both delivered food or the work environment is safe. Food manufacturing is one of those sectors where it is not possible to work from home – you can’t package wheat flour over Microsoft Teams, after all. Keeping workers safe and restoring confidence in the workforce that their manufacturing facility is a secure environment remained key challenges for companies throughout 2021.
Dealing with constant shutdowns during the last year have perhaps had mostly adapted during 2021, with many forced to transform from a bustling dining room into a takeaway overnight, or the limited time attending in hypermarket for shopping, this has raised concerns when it comes to sales and distribution of the products.
How is the market predicted to develop in the future?
The recent growth in Oman's population, coupled with per capita income, has increased the demand for wheat flour, which has further raised the production of flour. Change from traditional to urban and modern lifestyles of Omani consumers has increased the demand for various types of flours in the preparation of fast foods items. Moreover, the rise in health concerns for high-protein flour provides an impetus for flour millers to produce high fiber and whole wheat flour. Although changes in taste and preference of consumers, as well as dietary concerns for manufacturers to develop differentiated products, have impacted the overall sales, due to consumer health awareness and changing lifestyle especially with the new generation, we expect the consumption of bakery products and healthy bread to be increased next years.
Could you tell us flour consumption patterns in Oman?
In Oman, 99. % of people consume rice at least 4 days a week. Omanis consume also wheat bread, mostly white bread, which is prepared with refined white wheat flour and only a few health-conscious people use whole wheat bread 4 to 7 days a week. The frequency of bread consumption varied significantly between governorates, gender, education and income levels. The probable reasons for these variations might be diversification in population and level of education. Most of the government organizations, ministries and educational institutions are in Muscat, and therefore a higher percentage of educated people live there and those consume more wheat flour. Whereas, the other people who live in a small community with a minimum population consume less amount of wheat flour products.
Oman is located at the crossroads of trade between Asia and Europe. What advantages does this geostrategic location offer you?
Recently expanded mandate for the Oman ports such as Sohar Port, Duqm Port, Sultan Qaboos port in Muscat and Salah port to further integration, highlights the continued growth in this coastal city’s trade and development projects. Logistical, supply and venture contracts have been signed between the port authority and local and international firms. As the infrastructure completion and the prospect of full operations becomes more viable, its economic and geostrategic implications will extend far beyond Oman’s waters. Oman has not been ruptured by the threat of Iranian nuclear developments and recent Inter-Gulf disputes. That is not to say, however, that the growing economic agendas of regional nations will not create competition. As it assumes greater economic importance, geostrategic interest in Oman ports develop. For example, as the US attempts to reposition its assets and investments in the Indo-Pacific region, the port could provide a crucial gateway for a US northern Indian Ocean presence, beyond the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and the Qatar-hosted Central Command. For example, as China consolidates its great power status with greater maritime capabilities and India works towards its inevitable rise, it is essential that the prospects of greater prosperity through economic interconnection overcome the geopolitical competition and strategic fault lines that develop. With the facilitation of greater economic activity through the Indian Ocean, from Asia to Africa to Europe, Oman ports could be a source of economic integration.