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May 23, 2011

Uganda keen to lease farmland to Bangladesh

Uganda is ready to lease 60,000 hectares of farmland to Bangladeshi firms looking to grow food in Africa as part of government efforts to ensure food security for its growing population, a Bangladeshi official said.

"The Ugandan government is keen to lease vast unused arable land to Bangladeshi business firms to enhance production with the use of more advanced and sustainable technology," Abul Hossain, consul to the African country said on May 22.

Food prices have risen sharply over the past year, prompting Bangladesh to look into ways of securing supplies for its more than 150 million people. Last year, a government delegation visited African countries to explore farming opportunities.

Uganda was very suitable for farm investment due to factors including political stability, Hossain told a news conference.

Nitol Group has already signed a memorandum with Uganda to lease 10,000 hectares of land to grow rice, a staple food for Bangladeshis.

"Africa is calling. It will open up huge opportunities for Bangladeshi entrepreneurs," Nitol owner Abdul Matlub Ahmed said.

Bangladesh, once self-sufficient in rice production, has become a big importer recently, a fact analysts blamed on a growing population and shrinking farmland due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.

Some 25,000 people are needed for farming, of which 10 percent will be Bangladeshi farmers.

"Around 77,000 tonnes of rice would be produced. 20 percent of rice will be given to Uganda and the rest will be sent to Bangladesh at cost plus 10 percent pricing," Ahmed said. "If 22 such projects could be done, we can easily have the food security that the government wishes."

Another firm, Bhati Bangla Agritech, has signed a deal to rent 30,000 hectares of farmland in Tanzania.

Bangladesh is importing up to 2.5 million tonnes of food grain in the year to June, five times as much as in 2009/10. The private sector also imports around 2-3 million tonnes of foodgrain, mostly wheat, annually.

Nearly 40 percent of Bangladeshis live on less than $1.25 a day and spend most of the money on food, making it an issue in a mid-term election.


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