Punjab farmers to ink pact with Ethiopia

Punjab map
Chandigarh, May 24: As India and Africa show commitment to step up business ties, a group of Punjab farmers have firmed up plans to cultivate high value crops over 10,000 acres of land in Ethiopia in sync with their plans to try their hands in offshore farming.

About 12 farmers, under the umbrella of Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers (POSCON) are set to enter into an agreement with Ethiopian government for growing variety of crops, including pulses, maize and oilseeds, which would further be exported.

"We will be signing Memorandums of Understanding with Ethiopia in Jun or Jul to cultivate 10,000 acres of land initially," POSCON Secretary General Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha told PTI on May 24.

First ever decision of Punjab farmers to start farming on overseas land assumes significance as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also on six day visit to African counties, including Ethiopia with an objective of cementing business ties between India and Africa.

Last year, Ministry of External Affairs had even arranged a meeting of representatives of several African countries, including Ethiopia, Uganada, Zambia, Tanzania with Punjab farmers to invite them to invest in their countries.

Farmers, who are venturing out for the first time into any country, have identified about 20,000 hectares of land at few places, including Gambela in Ethiopia for cultivating pulses, oilseeds and maize.

"We will initially go slow in farming as we first want to have a feeling of the overall system prevalent there...then we will proceed further," he said.

What encouraged these farmers to do farming overseas was land availability at almost throwaway rates (almost Rs 500 per acre per annum) and zero duty on farm exports offered by Ethiopia.

Since Ethiopia has not allowed farmers to bring labour from India for farming, progressive farmers have decided to not train local Ethiopian people in carrying out farming activities.

"Ultimately, we will have to train local people here (in Ethiopia) to farming," he said.

To enhance bilateral trade between India and Ethiopia, Punjab farmers stressed upon stability in foreign policies of both the countries.

"There should be a stability in the policies being followed by the both the countries so as to ensure sustainability of business and protect long term investment of stakeholders," he said.


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