ADDIS ABABA: India’s food security plan got a big boost on Wednesday with Ethiopia offering a sizeable share of its 3 million-hectare farm land to Indian entrepreneurs. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi , who rejected charges with his country that foreign investors are being allowed to grab land, said his government’s principal priority was on developing land and “not on admiring virgin land while people starve in the country”.
Indian investors have already committed $4.7 billion investment in the farm sector of Ethiopia. With India facing land and water constraints, investment in farm sector abroad is seen as a viable option for meeting the challenges of food security.
Addressing the media along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , Zenawi said land was available in Ethiopia for development and “not for grabbing”. He said the move will bring capital, technology, infrastructure and jobs to the impoverished rural areas of the country. “We have leased out barely 10 per cent of our land. There is complete transparency in the exercise. Every bit of information is available on the internet,” the Ethiopian prime minister said. Sources said land is leased out for approximately $50 per year for one hectare.
While speaking to the media, Zenawi said Indian businessmen should ignore the “ill-intentioned and ill-informed” claims of the opponents of his government’s land allotment policy and invest in developing land.
Talking on the trade imbalances between the two countries, Zanawi said that it was not a major irritant in the relations between the two countries. “The quantum of trade between the two countries is just peanuts. We should be addressing the cause for this imbalance,” and added that Indian presence would add value to Ethiopian products. “India has promised to invest in the textile sector and this would hugely help our local industry,” he said.
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