(06 April 2009) A consortium of five Saudi business men has pledged an investment of $266 million into agricultural projects in Sudan and Ethiopia. The projects will lease land in the two countries to produce food for export to Saudi Arabia. The Ethiopian portion of the deal was reached as part of a wide ranging programme of investments signed by Saudi agriculture minister Fahd Balghunaim and Ethiopian Finance minister Sufian Ahmed.
In Sudan, a Saudi Arabian firm Hail Agricultural Development Cooperation (HADCO) has leased 22,830 acres (roughly the size of the French capital, Paris) in the northern part of the country. The deal worth $45.3 million sees HADCO lease the land for 48 years to grow wheat and corn for export to Saudi Arabia and gives the firm an option to acquire a further 80,940 acres.
The investment deals are part of an initiative by the Saudi Arabian government to secure food security for the Kingdom by acquiring fertile land in neighbouring countries with sole aim of providing food supplies for the country.
This is part of a trend that has seen an increasing amount of “food Security” investments by Asian countries in Africa. In Madagascar the recent coup was triggered by amongst other reasons opposition to the deal between the former government and South Korea to lease land the size of Belgium to the Korean firm Daewoo to grow and export food back to South Korea.