After roses, Bangalore firm to grow foodcrops in Ethiopia

August 31st, 2011 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Addis Ababa, Aug 31 (IANS) After making Ethiopia among the top sources globally for cut roses, a Bangalore-based company now plans to plant over 20,000 hectares of land there, almost a fifth the area of Pune, with crops like rice, maize and soybeans.

“This is part of 100,000 hectares leased from the government in 2009,” said Ramakrishna Karuturi, founder and managing director of Karuturi Global, which has invested nearly $150 million in this east African nation at the horn of this vast continent.

He said the company has also planted a variety of crops like rice, maize and sugarcane in other parts of the country, apart from setting up a host of rose farms, which made Karuturi a showpiece of foreign investment for the Ethiopian government.

“Going forward, we believe that the agriculture business will play a key part in the growth of the company, thus enabling us to build and sustain higher profit margins while further consolidating our presence in the African markets.”

Karuturi said the 20,000 hectares of plantation will come up in Oromia state, which stretches from the west to the southern border in the shape of an arc, and the Gambella region in the west.

He said produce from other plantations were expected soon. “We are expecting a harvest of maize and rice on 10,000 hectares by September. We are also planting palm oil trees on 5,000 hectares. In five years, we plan to increase this area to 20,000 hectares.”

He explained that when the production of palm plantations peak, the company expected to extract 100,000 tonnes of palm oil. “This will meet the entire demand for palm oil in Ethiopia. Currently the country imports 90,000 tonnes every year.”

This apart, the company has also planted sugarcane on 15,000 hectares of land in Gambella. The project began in December 2010 and the company hopes to eventually increase the area to 20,000 hectares.

Karuturi, which also has a 10-hectare farm near the new international airport here, made an entry into Ethiopia in 2004 through a 100-percent subsidiary named Ethiopian Meadows Plc. With a unit in Kenya, the group is the largest exporter of cut roses in the world.

It began in Ethiopia with an initial investment of $5 million, planted 100 hectares of land and employed 200 people. Now it has over 5,000 people, with an investment of $150 million. The group hopes the new projects will add another 20,000 people to its rolls.

After the initial foray, Karuturi leased another farm at Wolisso, some 90 km from here, and employed over 3,000 local workers. The company also has two flower farms in Holeta in Oromia. These farms produce roses for the European market, mainly Germany.

(Groum Abate can be contacted at groumabate@gmail.com)

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