Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ethiopia’s foreign land leases fail to deliver food for export

(Nov 26, 2013, (Addis Ababa))--Gleaming tractors and harvesters are sitting idle five years after Karuturi Global opened a farm in Ethiopia that was hailed as the poster child of the country’s plan to triple food exports by 2015. About 80 percent of the Indian-based company’s land in the southwestern Gambella region is in a flood plain, meaning its 100 000 hectare concession is flooded for up to seven months of the year, according to managing director Ramakrishna Karuturi.

The company was unaware of the extent of the flooding when it leased the land, he said. “Karuturi, like many other large-scale investors, underestimated the complexity of opening land for large-scale commercial agriculture,” Philipp Baumgartner, a researcher at the Centre for Development Research, said.

“The land leased out wasn’t properly assessed by either of the contracting parties,” said Baumgartner, who has written a doctoral thesis on agriculture in Gambella. Karuturi, the biggest rose grower in the world, was one of the first to take advantage of a government plan to lease 3.3 million hectares of farmland to private investors.

The Ethiopian programme got off to a poor start because of transport and electricity problems, a lack of security, and a shortage of funds and farming expertise, said James Keeley, a consultant for the International Institute for Environment and Development. Read more from IOL » 

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