Saudi in talks with Senegal over farmland
Dubai, December 7, 2010
Senegal is in talks with Saudi Arabia to lease farmland to grow food on an area nearly four times the size of Manhattan, an official in Senegal involved in the deal said.
Like other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia has been buying farmland in Asia and Africa to secure food supplies after inflation had nearly doubled the price of food in 2008.
'We are in talks with Saudi Arabia now and we are offering them 400,000 hectares of farmland to lease on long-term basis in Senegal,' the official was quoted as saying in a report in our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
'Some of the land is already producing food and other parts are not and the farmers have no problem with these lease deals,' he added.
According to the contract terms being discussed, the deal will allow up to 100 per cent of the food being produced on the land to be exported by the investors, the official from Senegal said.
'These deals can be very flexible because we want to attract investment,' he said.
Due to limited water supplies, the kingdom plans to phase out production of all the water intensive crops that had depleted resources. The crops include wheat, soya beans and animal fodder.
Saudi Arabia needs around 2.6 million tonnes of wheat annually, and the government said last year it would rely entirely on wheat imports by 2016.
Last year, Foras International Investment Company, a group of Saudi-based investors, including the Islamic Development Bank launched a seven-year plan worth $1 billion in Africa to reduce dependency on rice imports and supply the Middle East region.
The so-called 7X7 project aims at developing and planting 700,000 hectares of farm land to produce within seven years seven million tonnes of rice.