The Horn of Africa nation plans to rent out 3 million hectares (5 million acres) of farmland over the next five years, Abera Deressa, minister of state for agriculture, said in an interview in Addis Ababa, the capital, on Oct. 22. The strategy forms part of a government policy that also aims to wean Africa’s second-most populous nation off a donor- funded food program that supports 7.8 million Ethiopians. “Everywhere we want to increase the amount of land to be leased,” Abera said. “We have abundant land available.” Ethiopia’s government has identified agriculture as the “major source” of the 11 percent growth rate targeted by the Finance Ministry in a five-year economic plan unveiled in August. The industry accounts for 80 percent of exports and 43 percent of gross domestic product in Africa’s biggest coffee- producing nation, Abera said.
Since August 2009, Ethiopia has leased about 200,000 hectares of land to 16 domestic and foreign companies, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Ten of the investors have started developing their allocated plots. Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc, owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, has taken 10,000 hectares in the low-lying western Gambella region, while Karuturi Global Ltd. of India has leased more than 300,000 hectares in Gambella and Baka, according to its website.