African countries turn to India for investments in agriculture

With many African countries, such as Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, and Cote d’lvoire, actively looking beyond China for attracting foreign investments in agriculture — crucial for food security and economic growth — India is pushing its interests in the sector to secure economic and diplomatic ties with the region. 

“Some African nations, such as Kenya and Uganda, are ready to fast-track collaboration in agriculture with India and recently offered land on lease to Indian businesses during a  delegation visit. There is huge opportunity to cultivate crops such as rice, wheat and millets as well as invest in sectors such as livestock, bio gas and fertilisers. The driving factor for these countries seems to be a need to diversify and look beyond China which India is trying to latch on to,” an official told businessline.

The MEA and the Agriculture Ministry led a delegation of top Indian businesses, mostly from the agriculture and allied sector, to Uganda and Kenya last month, where “fruitful” talks took place with their respective governments. About 35 representatives from companies such as DCM Shriram, Bharat Biogas Energy, Bajaj Processpack Ltd, Eruvaka Agro Products and Everest Chemicals participated.

“The Kenyan government has agreed to lease land with a condition that 20 per cent of revenue should be paid in the form of export tax. The country is okay with companies taking out their money after paying taxes. Not only is there opportunity to grow rice, wheat and millets, value added investments can also be made for fruits such as avocadoes, bananas, pineapples and mangoes,” the official said.

While Kenya did not make any explicit commitments on the size of land it would offer, Uganda agreed to provide a minimum of 100 acres of land to each investor to undertake agricultural activities, industry sources who were part of the official delegation said.

“Seed production and dairy development are also promising areas. Both countries want to have the world’s best crop varieties in maize, paddy, millets, and even horticulture crops to improve their domestic production. Indian investors can put their money here with guaranteed return,” the industry source said.

As food security is one of the reasons for seeking investments, the countries want Indian investors to grow the best seeds varieties, including maize, and sell those seeds domestically to increase domestic production, the source added.

With abundant availability of natural grass, which is one of the best cattle feed, animal husbandry is also a promising sector, the source said. “The two sides can also collaborate to develop local hybrid species if certain Indian bovine species are made available,” the industry source said.

Many Indian delegates were also interested in exploring export-import opportunities, as these give immediate results, but the focus was on investments and initiations made will be taken forward in the coming months. “We are satisfied that a beginning has been made. Even if a few investments materialise, it will be good. Things can progress from there,” the official said.

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