Madagascar enthusiastic at corn deal with Daewoo

Associated Press | 20 November 2008


ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Madagascar officials are enthusiastic about a company's big farming plans for an undeveloped area but say the deal won't go ahead if it threatens the island's unique ecology.

An environmental impact assessment was to begin shortly, the Malagasy Environment Office said Thursday, a day after Daewoo Logistics Corp. announced it would grow corn on 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of land, mostly in the Indian Ocean island's arid west.

Shin Dong-hyun, the Daewoo official in charge of the project, said Daewoo would likely spend $6 billion over the first 25 years. It has secured a 99-year lease, and was working out final details on rental fees and taxes with officials in Madagascar.

"There's no deal without a favorable conclusion" of the environmental assessment, the Malagasy Environment Office said in a statement. Madagascar is home to a number of animals found nowhere else in the world.

Officials on the island were nonetheless enthusiastic about the prospects of the Daewoo deal. The country off the southeast coast of Africa now produces more than 3 million tons of rice per year, yet remains a net rice importer.

"We are very excited because we're frightened by this food crisis," said Eric Beantanana of the Madagascar Economic Development Board.

Tourism and the mining sector have been the mainstays of Madagascar's economy.

Revenue from the Daewoo project would be pumped into development and infrastructure in a region made inaccessible for four months a year by flooding, Minister of Land Reform Marius Ratolojanahary said.

Original source: Associated Press

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