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May 17, 2010

Indian firm to grow crops in Ethiopia

Indian personal care and ayurvedic medicines major, the $165- million Emami group, is making a big foray into Africa not just in their traditional lines of businesses but also in contract farming and power generation, a top official has said.

"In Ethiopia, Emami Biotech has been allotted 100,000 acres of land by the Investment Commission. We will cultivate edible and non-edible oil seeds and cereals like gram, maize, sunflower, soya and jatropha," said the company's director Aditya V. Agarwal.

"The cost in the first phase is Rs.400 crore ($85 million)," Agarwal said, adding; "Labour is only a small cost. The benefit is in the availability of land. We are most interested in this aspect. We have successfully availed land without any hassles."

According to him, one of the reasons why the group's focus was on Africa was that the large continent accounted for a sizeable share of their exports, which form 15 percent of their sales turnover, reaching out to 60 countries.

"It is more than just about money. Ours is also a poor country and we are improving so we can relate to the degree of progress there too. It would definitely pay in the long term," he said. "Another reason particularly so far, the Ethiopian government has been very cooperative and this is one of the major reasons - 'why Ethiopia'. They are very approachable and willing to help which works well for us."

Agarwal said plans were also on for Rs1,500 crore ($335 million) additional investment in Ethiopia for a 300-mw power plant. "Feasibility and viability studies are currently underway," he said. Nigeria and South Africa are also on the group's radar.

He hoped that just as his Emami group will benefit from the projects planned in Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular, these countries, too, would derive opportunities from his group's investments there.

"One of our major projects being cultivation, it creates a lot of employment, leading to growth, inflow of foreign money, development of natural resources like land and water, training and education of residents and therefore awareness and progress."

Headquartered in Kolkata, the 30-year-old Emami group has such brands in its stable as Boroplus, Hairlife, Sardi Ja and Sona Chandi Chyawanprash. In recent months, it has acquired the ayurvedic medicines major Zandu and diversified into the realty business.

India Times

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