Friday, June 03, 2011

Punjab farmers explore Ethiopia for agri opportunities

(Vijay C Roy / New Delhi/ Chandigarh June 04, 2011)- Inspired by Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers (POSCON) of Punjab, farmer organisations like Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan is now exploring Ethiopia for opportunities in agriculture.

While, the progressive members of POSCON are planning to take about 2,000-5,000 hectares farm land on lease in Ethiopia for growing cash crops like oilseeds, pulses, sugarcane and maize, members of Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan is looking to grow cotton, paddy, non-edible oil seeds and palm land by taking 5,000 hectares land on lease.

According to their members, fertile land coupled with low lease money and developmental cost makes a viable proposition for the farmers for cultivation.

The delegation of progressive farmers has already visited Ethiopia on the invitation of Ethiopian government.

Speaking to Business Standard, Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan, Regional coordinator of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Puneet Singh Thind said, “Our members have visited there and we have identified around 5,000 hectares in Gambella.

We have submitted our project report to the Ethiopian government and are planning to cultivate cotton, paddy, non-edible oil seeds, palm oil, etc.” The Sangathan has around 1,38,000 members in Punjab and Haryana.

Sharing about plan, POSCON Secretary General Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha said, “We have identified some land in Ethiopia. It is premature to quantify exact hectares, but if everything goes well, we would start farming by this year.

Initially we are planning to set our foot in Ethiopia and to start with we are looking at 2,000-5,000 hectares. Also, we are targeting expansion of 5,000 hectares per year over the next 10 years.”

On being about the selection of Ethiopia, they mentioned, “The lease amount is nominal. As compared to India, where one has to shell out Rs 25,000-35,000 per hectare we have to shell out only Rs 500 per hectare.

Also, the land is very fertile and virgin. We are planning to export the high value cash crop grown there like pulses, oilseeds, maize, etc to India as we are not self sufficient.”

He added that most of the agricultural land is with the Ethiopian government and it has offered us to acquire land on lease for a period ranging between 25 to 45 years at a nominal rate. The Punjab farmers have identified land in Oromia, Gambella and Benhulgul.

Also, according to him, the initial developmental cost for farming in Ethiopia works out to Rs 25,000-Rs 1 lakh per hectare of land.

This cost involves spending on infrastructure, farm machinery and land development.

On being asked about the hurdles, they mentioned that the infrastructure is not good, if the government wants to attract in the field of agriculture they have to focus on infrastructure.
 Source:  business-standard

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