CHANDIGARH: Punjab-based farmers, who are known for feeding the country, now want to try their hands offshore, with a group of progressive farmers all set to acquire 50,000 hectares of farm land on lease in Ethiopia for growing high-value cash crops, including pulses and maize.
"We will be inking a deal with the Ethiopia government next month for getting at least 50,000 hectares of area for growing crops like pulses and maize, which will be exported to India and Europe," Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers President Sukhjit Singh Bhatti told PTI here.
Bhatti will lead a delegation of 16 interested potato growers from Punjab to carry out farming in Ethiopia.
What encouraged these potato growers to try their hand at farming overseas was land availability at almost throwaway rates, duty free imports of capital goods and the zero duty on farm exports offered by Ethiopia.
"Unlike here, most of the agricultural land is with the Ethiopian government and it has offered us to acquire land on lease for a period ranging between 25 to 40 years at a nominal rate, which works out to Rs 400 per acre per annum in Indian currency. Moreover, we will not have to pay for the first five years of our operations," he said.
Furthermore, the cropping pattern in Ethiopia is not that intense as it is in Punjab. "With less pressure on land there (Ethiopia), the soil will be suitable for growing pulses, maize and other cash crops," he said, adding, "These crops will be exported to India and Europe."
The Ethiopian government has also assured that it will not levy any duty on the import of machinery like farm implements and export of agricultural commodities.
The Ethiopian Ambassador to India led a delegation from Punjab to his country in the month of June and asked Punjab farmers to invest in farming. The Punjab farmers were shown three farm estates, including Oromia, Gambella and Ben Hul Gul by Ethiopian authorities when they visited the country.
According to Bhatti, the initial cost for farming in Ethiopia works out to Rs 1.5 crore per 100 hectares of land. "This cost involves spending on infrastructure, farm machinery and land development," he said.
The idea of land cultivation in foreign country has also clicked with the Punjab government, as state-owned Punjab Agro plans to take eight farmers from the state to CIS countries including Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan next month to explore the possibility of cultivating land on lease and exporting fruits, vegetables, basmati rice, etc.This year, the ambassadors of various African countries, including Tanzania and Uganda, visited Punjab and encouraged farmers of the state to till the land in their countries.