Turkey plans to secure food supplies via Sudan, despite previous failure
By Faustine Ngila
Turkey has been struggling to feed its entire population since 2015. The government has cited climate change and the constant refugee crisis as the major causes.
But to avert the situation, the country now wants to revisit a plan it started in 2016 but failed to execute leasing farmland in Sudan to grow sufficient food for home consumption and export.
Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Vahit Kirişci told lawmakers last month that leasing farmland in Sudan will be a crucial step in boosting food security.
Turkey’s land leasing plans in Sudan
Turkey had attempted to lease 850,000 hectares of land in Sudan’s White Nile basin for 99 years but ownership, storage, and security challenges stalled the project. The country also experienced political upheaval.
This time around, Turkey says it will do things differently. It will re-plan the project and will be investing to grow crops that cannot survive in Turkey due to climate conditions.
The new plan is to prioritize the production of corn, sunflower, cotton, and sugarcane and will be coordinated by the country’s General Directorate of Agricultural Enterprises (TIGEM). To meet export demands, the growing of pineapples, mangoes, and canola is also being considered.
Sudan hopes the project will also help it feed its population, with the latest United Nations data showing that 12 million people (pdf) are expected to face acute food insecurity in Sudan this year.
Massive land leases in Africa have been on the rise
But its not only Turkey finding solutions for food insecurity in African land. Britain leased 4.4 million hectares of land in Africa, equal to Denmark’s surface area according to the 2013 report of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The size of land leased by the US by the same method is 3.7 million hectares. Republic of Congo has leased 8.1 million hectares of land while Sudan has so far rented out 4.7 million hectares.
Such deals locally attract outcry on being neocolonialist especially in a continent where land ownership is a fraught topic for many and a cause of various conflicts. In the past, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has characterized such huge land leases by wealthier countries as “land grabs” stating, “Behind every land grab is a water grab.”