Sudan Tribune | Wednesday 18 February 2009
By Tesfa-alem Tekle
February 17, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — A group of five Saudi Arabia business men have planned to invest 1 billion Saudi riyals (some $ 266.6 million) in agricultural projects in Sudan and Ethiopia within the coming few years, Pan Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat reports.
The investment plans got a major boost when the kingdom and Ethiopia signed an agreement to continue and expand cooperation in different sectors especially in the field of agriculture with the aim of providing food security for Saudi nationals.
"The agreement signed by agriculture minister Fahd Balghunaim and Ethiopian minister of finance and economic development Sufian Ahmed will further strengthen bilateral trade and investment links," said Abdullah Al-Obaid, minister of agriculture.
The accord was signed on the side lines of the Saudi-Ethiopian joint ministerial committee meeting which was held recently.
The meeting, Al-Obaid said, will help to enhance exchanges in various fields between the kingdom and Ethiopia.
Despite the agreement, the business men have expressed some concerns over laws and regulations in these two east African countries.
Mean while a Saudi Arabian company, Hail Agricultural Development Cooperation (HADCO) said that it is investing an estimated $45.3 million in 22,830 acres of farmland in Northern Sudan that it has rented from the Sudanese government over a 48-year lease.
HADCO is currently conducting tests on whether it can grow corn or wheat on the leased land, and if the trial shows progress, the company might then lease an additional 80,940 acres in five years time.
This announcement was the first by a Saudi company since the government in January decided to establish a $5.3-billion fund to support agricultural development by offering soft loans and necessary credit facilities.
The initiative aims to uphold national and international food security by building partnerships with countries that have high agricultural potential and develop, manage and sustain farm investments in several strategic crops to be available in sufficient quantities and at a stable price.