New Delhi, Aug 27 (Calcutta Tube) As India looks at avenues beyond its shores to deal with food security, Uganda, which has nearly half the arable land in east Africa, has laid the red carpet for inward investment from India Inc. in its farming sector.
‘Nobody can beat the opportunities my country has in agriculture,’ Ugandan Minister for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Hope Mwesigye said during a visit here to discuss opportunities in her country’s farm sector.
‘Uganda has huge tracts of farmland that could be leased or bought by foreign companies. The government gives land on lease, which are usually long leases ranging from 49-99 years. These can be extended,’ Mwesigye told IANS in an interview.
She said even though her country possessed 48 percent of the arable land in east Africa, only a third was under cultivation and huge tracts of farmland could be leased or bought by foreign firms – an opportunity Indian government has been exploring hard.
Besides, there is no bar on foreign companies buying land from individuals, Mwesigye said, adding: ‘We would like companies to enter into partnership with the indigenous people, as we don’t want them to be thrown out.’
During her visit here, the lawyer-politician also interacted with Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas and spoke about the previous bilateral pact between New Delhi and Kampala on the farm sector and how to improve its efficacy.
‘We have an agreement signed in 2007. Now we want to implement it,’ she said, adding her country was particularly interested in increasing collaboration with research institutes apart from going forward in four broad areas with scope for joint ventures.
‘These include how to increase production, fight diseases and pests, development of laboratories and increasing the capacity of research institutes.’
Mwesigye said that Uganda was an ideal place for agro companies for two main reasons-suitable climatic conditions and market access to potentially large importers.
‘We have an equitable climate. There are no extremes. So a different variety of crops can be grown. We also have agreements for duty-free exports to the US and the EU. So, again, on markets, the opportunities are great,’
According to the Ugandan minister, her country was also not a new place for India Inc and that in recent years investment had been made by Kolkata-based McLeod Russel, the world’s largest integrated tea company, in tea gardens worth $25 million.
The Tata group is also looking at Uganda to boost its instant coffee business, the minister said, adding: ‘Uganda is the largest African producer of ‘robusta’ coffee variety.’
The visiting minister also hoped for active Indian participation at the AgriBusiness Forum 2010 in Uganda Oct 3-6, and said she had an assurance from Minister Thomas that there would be an official delegation for the event.
(Devirupa Mitra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)