Karuturi’s woes have begun
Indian Ocean Newsletter | 13 January 2012
The Indian company Karuturi Global Ltd, which has been cultivating roses in Ethiopia since 2004, is now in conflict with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) about one of its expansion projects. This firm, which is headed by Ramakrishna Karuturi, obtained an allocation of 300,000 hectares (about 740,000 acres) in Bako in the Gambela region, south west of Addis Ababa for an ambitious agricultural project to grow crops like maize and oil palm, involving an investment of over $1 billion. It wants to install Indian farmers on a tenant arrangement on one fifth of the 100,000 hectares of which it has already taken possession. But MoARD is against this scheme.
At the end of 2011, a few hundreds of Indians, presented as operators of agricultural machinery, arrived in Ethiopia and Karuturi asked the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) to issue them with work permits. MoLSA then consulted MoARD which opposed the attribution of these work permits, deeming that these Indians were future tenant farmers hired by Karuturi. The latter then stated that these Indians would not be hired as farmers but as technical consultants to put the land into production. Nevertheless, in their negotiations with Karuturi, the MoARD officials demanded the Indian company to send these workers home, because Ethiopian legislation only allows work permits to be issued to foreigners when local manpower is insufficiently qualified for the relevant jobs.
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