Monday, July 26, 2010

Land Grab: India in Africa

India in Africa:
What started as a trickle a few years ago is now gaining momentum. Harcharan Bajwa was among the early travellers. He started a floriculture farm in Ghana five years ago. “In Patiala, I had twenty acres of land where I alternated between wheat and rice. Today I have 250 acres of land on lease for 50 years. I am able to export my produce to Holland. People think Africa is torn apart by violence but that’s not true of all countries. It is a bit like India where some states see violence while others are completely peaceful,” he says. ...

In fact, the bulk of the dairy industry in Kampala (Uganda) is run by farmers who migrated from Punjab....

[Indian farmers are becoming] Convinced that farming in Africa is a feasible and profitable venture.... “Vast tracts of arable land are lying vacant. There is no technology. In my entire trip of seven days, I saw two tractors and that too of the sort that we stopped using in India some 30 years ago. The land is fertile, the climate is suitable and water is abundant. Also, both land and labour are cheap.”
The cause of the upsurge in interest? An international summit and invitations.
The sudden spurt in interest in Africa can be traced to an Africa summit held in Patiala four months ago. Minister of State for External Affairs, Preneet Kaur, who is an MP from Patiala, brought along ambassadors and high commissioners to India of seven African nations and together they exhorted farmers in Punjab to explore opportunities in Africa. They pointed out the advantages of farming in Punjab—and that Africa was more than just a continent torn apart by war. And last month, Ethiopian Ambassador to India, Genet Zewdie, came on a four-day visit to Jalandhar, met local farmers and invited them to take land on lease in Ethiopia. ...
Prices help: "for every one acre in Punjab, we can own 60 acres in Africa." They also point out that Europe is more relaxed about enforcing some standards when the produce comes from "virgin" Africa than from India, so that lowers costs too.

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