Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc Will Invest $2.5 Billion in Ethiopia Rice Farm

Tigrai Online
March. 23 2011

Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc, a food company owned by billionaire Sheikh Mohammed al- Amoudi, said it plans to invest $2.5 billion by 2020 developing a rice-farming project in Ethiopia.

The company, based in Addis Ababa, leased 10,000 hectares (24,711 acres) in Ethiopia’s western Gambella region for 60 years at a cost of 158 birr ($9.42) per hectare annually, Chief Executive Officer Haile Assegide said in an interview on March 18. It plans to rent an additional 290,000 hectares from the government, he said.

The project forms part of the Horn of Africa nation’s plan to lease 3 million hectares, an area about the size of Belgium, to private investors over the next 2 ˝ years. Critics including GRAIN, the Barcelona-based advocacy group, have argued that domestic farmers are being dispossessed and the country shouldn’t rent land cheaply to foreign investors to grow cash crops when about 13 percent of its approximately 80 million people still rely on food aid.

“There is lots of land in Ethiopia, especially in the lowland areas,” Haile said. “So, if you develop this lowland area and make Ethiopia self-sufficient in food, I see no problem.”

Karuturi Global Ltd. (KARG), an Indian food processor, plans to produce commodities including palm oil, sugar and rice on 312,000 hectares of rented land in Ethiopia.