Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi's recently established Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc requested, two weeks ago, for an additional 250,000ht of land in Jawi Wereda of the Awi Zone of the Amhara Regional State for sugar beet production from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD).
The request is under review by the Investors Support Directorate under the State Minister Abera Deressa who told Fortune that the land would be granted if the review of the business plan of the company turned out to be good.
The three sugar factories in Ethiopia, Metahara, Finchaa, and Wonji Shoa, as well as Tendaho and the Pakistani-owned Al-Habesha Sugar Mills Plc, which are under development, all produce sugar from sugarcane, making Saudi Star the first to use sugar beet.
This is part of the company's plan to develop 500,000ht of land in 10 years at a total expected cost of three billion to five billion dollars. It has currently obtained 10,000ht of land in the Alwero Area of the Gambella Regional State for the production of rice. Subsequently, the company intends to produce maize and wheat. The Amhara Regional State project focuses on cash crops.
"Al-Amoudi wanted this project to be implemented in the Amhara Regional State in order to create job opportunities in the area. It emanates from his aspiration to alleviate the poverty there," Haile Assegdie, managing director of Saudi Star told Fortune.
The company wanted to get the land in the Jawi Wereda where 98pc of the land is said to be flat terrain with an annual average rainfall of 1200 to 1300mm.
The wereda's Communication and Public Relations Secretary Tamene Demessie, said that the interest in the area previously came from sesame growers. Lately, however, Hibir Sugar had chosen the area for its sugar factory and sugarcane plantation, followed by Saudi Star's interest now.
The Caterpillar agricultural machinery, which Saudi Star acquired for 80 million dollars, are, at present, being transported to the Alwero farm in Gambella. This company and the Indian Karuturi are presently the two largest food and cash crop growers in the country. Karuturi has commenced wheat production on the 300,000ht of land it acquired in the Gambella Regional State.
In Ethiopia, crop production has been localised to the densely populated, highland areas, which accounts for 40pc of the total land of the country.The lowlands cover the remaining 60pc, and are sparsely populated. The Ethiopian government has been assuring land concessions should an interested investor come, as has been repeatedly expressed by PM Meles Zenawi.