UAE’s Elite Agro mulls investing in food estate, minister says

Jakarta Globe| 2 February 2024

UAE’s Elite Agro mulls investing in food estate, minister says

by Jayanty Nada Shofa

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir recently claimed that United Arab Emirates-based agriculture giant Elite Agro was looking to invest in Indonesia’s food estate project.

The government has been banking on the food estate program as a means for Indonesia to be self-reliant on food supplies and cut down on imports. Food estate sees Indonesia establishing large-scale plantations across the country to cultivate rice, corn, and cassava, among other staple crops. Indonesia recently pitched the idea for Emirati businesses to partake in the project in Thursday’s bilateral roundtable discussion in Jakarta. According to Erick, Elite Agro was exploring the possibility of investing in Indonesia’s food estate.

“We discussed food estate, among other things. The UAE even brought their top food company Elite Agro, who wished to invest in our food estate,” Erick told reporters shortly after the forum.

Erick did not go into more detail on Elite Agro’s investment. But Erick said that the food estate program could be a win-win solution for Indonesia and interested partners -- in this case the UAE -- as food commodity prices rise amid global uncertainties.

“The UAE sees potential in [food estate] on building food security. It is not just for us, but them [the UAE] as well. This is a win-win project. We are opening partnerships with various parties,” Erick said.

According to the company’s official website, Elite Agro currently farms in the UAE, Serbia, and Morocco. The agriculture giant grows a wide range of vegetables, fruits, cereals, and fruits in all these countries. The Investment Ministry reported that Emirati investment in Indonesia totaled $68 million throughout last year. This marks a threefold increase compared to UAE investment in 2022, which stood at $22.9 million. 

Food Estate Takes Time

The food estate program has been making headlines since the recent environment-focused election debate. Vice presidential candidates Muhaimin Iskandar and Mohammad Mahfud MD at the time called the food estate a failure, arguing that it led to ecological disasters. Candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka --who is the running mate to Prabowo Subianto -- told his rivals that the program would take time before it could finally reach satisfactory results. Many ministers eventually came to defend the project. 

“We have to make sure the seeds match with the soil. ... Food estate takes between 4 and 5 years. And everything has to be right from the beginning,” Erick told the press at the Indonesia-UAE event.

Agricultural Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman said recently that a number of food estate projects had already reaped harvests. According to Amran, the food estate in Gunung Mas, Central Kalimantan, has already harvested corn and cassava. The same goes for the corn production in Papua’s Keerom food estate.

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