View of Ethiopia that is out of date

Financial Times | March 11 2009

From Mr Berhanu Kebede.

Sir, Your article “Saudis get first taste of foreign harvest” (March 5), on Saudi Arabia growing food crops in Ethiopia, is alarmist. The benefits are numerous and include new jobs, the advanced technology that the investment will bring, and export tax revenues that can be used to boost our well-respected agricultural development strategy. Huge tracts of unutilised agricultural land are available, particularly in the lowland areas of the country where all sorts of agricultural products can be grown. Saudi Arabia is already one of Ethiopia’s top three trading partners and is also engaged in the manufacturing and hospitality sectors. About 240 Saudi companies have been given investment licences to date and are investing $2.5bn.

There have been droughts and food shortages in the past 20 years but Ethiopia has not been “famine-hit” since 1984, and for everyone's sake we need to move on from these outdated labels. Famine has been avoided as the Ethiopian government, with support from its development partners, has put in place a safety net and other systems to ensure that grain is available to those who could not grow enough for their needs.

Berhanu Kebede,
Ethiopian Embassy,
London SW7, UK
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