New Delhi: Ethiopia has offered to Indian investors 1.8 million hectares of farmland, equalling nearly 40 percent the total area of principal grain-growing state of Punjab, in what could give a big push to the country`s food security.
"So far, we have transferred 307,000 hectares of land to foreign and domestic investors. Some 79 percent of this land has been transferred to Indian companies. This land is on 70-year lease," said visiting Ethiopian Agriculture Minister Tefera Derbew.
"We are now proposing to transfer another 3.6 million hectares of land to investors from overseas. And I am confident that more than half of this 3.6 million hectares will go to Indians," Derbew, who is here on a three-day official visit, told IANS in an interview.
The land offered by the East African nation, at the horn of the continent, equals 50 percent of the cultivable land of Punjab, often called India`s granary, accounting for 23 percent of its wheat and 10 percent of paddy output.
"How much land will actually go to Indian investors depends entirely on the interest of investors. If they come and take all the land, then also we will be very happy. Indian investors are very welcome in Ethiopia," Derbew said.
According to the visiting minister, Indian investors have so far committed $4.7 billion investment in Ethiopia and most of it is related to the farm sector. He said the investment was going to rise sharply in the coming years with interests arising in mining as well.
Indian firms have interests in cotton, palm oil, rubber, oilseeds and horticulture.
Derbew said an Indian company was in the process of getting 100,000 hectares of land for sugarcane production. "India has expertise in sugar. We are in talks with several Indian companies to help develop the sugar industry in our country."
Officials here identified the company as Karuturi Global, one of the largest global players in the organised floriculture industry. The investments planned, they added, could go up to over $100 million for a sugarcane crushing and processing unit in Ethiopia.
The minister said the trade balance, which was hugely skewed towards India, would tilt in Ethiopia`s favour once the projects materialise. "Our bilateral trade is over $500 million. But most of it are Indian exports. Our exports are negligible."
He said there was also scope for Ethiopia to export potassic fertiliser to India.
Derbew said his government had also liberalised the norms for allocation of land for all major infrastructure projects, including those for roadways and railways, and was in talks with several Indian companies in this regard.
"We target to build over 2,000 km of rail link in the next five years. Similarly, there is also a huge investment potential for road infrastructure," said Derbew, adding: "We hope Indian companies will take advantage of this opportunity as well."