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September 25, 2009

Tanzania government denies reports of major farmland lease deal with South Korea

by Ray Naluyaga

The government of Tanzania has refuted media reports indicating that it has leased out 1000 square kilometres of farmland to South Koreans.

It had been reported that South Korea had agreed to develop farmland in Tanzania, the latest in series of such deals between rich and poor nations. The media quoted Korean officials as saying that 1,000 sq km (386 sq miles) would be developed - half for local farmers, half to produce processed goods for South Korea.

According to the reports, the deal was as a result of the recent visit of Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to the Far East country.

However, the minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Steven Wassira, said that he had no knowledge of the deal.

“I was part of the Prime Minister’s delegation to South Korea and what transpired was none other than extension of invitation to South Korean investors to come and invest in all sectors including agriculture,” he said. He added that there were several ongoing negotiations regarding investments in various sectors of the economy between Tanzania and South Korea which could not be termed as agreements.

The executive director of the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) Mr Emmanuel Ole Naiko also denied the existence of such a deal. “There is no information regarding that kind of investment at TIC and the centre is yet to receive any official communication from the government,” he said.

An official with state-run Korea Rural Community Corporation, Mr Lee Ki-Churl, was quoted as saying that a memorandum of understanding would be signed in October. The corporation says it would produce processed foods like cooking oil, wine and starch on the land.

“Some African countries export fruit and import fruit juice, or export olives and import olive oil, simply because their past colonialists did not teach them how to process food,” he told the AFP news agency.

“We plan to set up an education centre for Tanzanian farmers in the food-processing zone in order to transfer agricultural know-how and irrigation expertise to them.” He said about $83 million would be spent to develop an initial 100 sq km of land over the next few years.

This happens several months after it was reported that Saudi Arabian investors also want to lease 500,000 hectares of farmland in Tanzania to grow rice and wheat. The Saudis made the request during President Jakaya Kikwete’s visit to the Kingdom in April this year. Senior officials from the Saudi capital’s chamber of commerce came up with the request on the sidelines of the meeting with the Head of State.

President Kikwete is reported to have told the Saudis that Tanzania could lease them land covering up to 10,000 hectares for 99 years.

“Tanzania is ready to do business with you… here is 100 million acres (40.5 million hectares) of good arable land,” Reuters quoted Mr Kikwete as telling the Saudi businessmen.

The Citizen

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