Angry Farm Investors Lambast Ministry


The farmers criticize for a delayed response on recurrent problems in commercial farm investment.




A Ministry of Agriculture meeting on November 25 to discuss the financial contributions of commercial farm investors to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) shifted into a platform for airing grievances and frustrations over the current status of the sector. Close to 100 investors who attended the meeting lambasted the ministry and related public offices for slow progress on reviving paused farm loans and finding solutions for investors who were evicted from Gambella, Beinshangul and the Southern Regional states earlier this year. The half day meeting was chaired by Seada Kedir, state Minister of Agriculture.

Attempts to return the meeting to the original topic were unsuccessful.

“We are just hearing the same rhetoric,” one investor who attended the meeting told Fortune.

“When I heard about the meeting, I thought they would come up with solutions. Especially with a new minister, my expectations were high,” he added.

The investor is among many hundreds of commercial investors who were evicted from Gambella by the region itself last year. In December 2015, nearly 30 investors from Gambella Region, Dima Wereda were notified to transfer close to 48,443 ha of land, an area almost half of Addis Abeba’s size, to the region. Later, 67 more investors added to the list.

The reason given for the mass eviction was that the investors were illegally given land that was preserved for a special economic zone, under the federal government.

Earlier this year another seven investors who leased land in three regions faced penalties for under performance. Among them were Omo Valley Farm Corporation Plc, Gutit Farm Development Plc, Dasani Farm, Teame Farm and Dasench Farm, located in the southern region of the country – specifically across Omo, Segelle Zone.

The investors who claim that they have already invested millions of birr, are now waiting for the government response to what they claim is an unjust action.

“It has been almost a year with no concrete solution,” commented the same investor.

Last year, the government was strict on commercial farm investment. It paused all loans following failed results from the sector. Not only local investors but also foreign investors such as the infamous Karaturi Agro Products Plc, an Indian company, lost their credentials to continue investing.

After a series of incidents in the sector, the government decided to stop giving land for commercial farm investment and stopped loans via the Development Bank. There have been incidents where more than one loan was disbursed for similarly named farms on the same land.

The government later launched a study on the sector, carried out by a committee from the Investment Commission, Banks and the Ministry overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office. The study results have yet to be disclosed to the public.

“Back then, we were told the study would be concluded within three months,” recall the investor.

“The extraordinary issues in the country have held us back,” responded Abera Mulat, director of Agricultural Investment Land Administration Agency (AILAA).

“What we’re told at the policy level and what we face in the regions has no integration at all,” commented another investor.

“In relation to Gambella region, so far the study has indicated that the lower structure of the reginal adminstration has a problem,” said Abera. “We will soon disclose the findings of the study.”



By DAWIT ENDESHAW
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on Nov 29,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 865]


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