Sunday, June 19, 2011

The return of the sunflower?

On my recent trip to Bako agricultural research center (between Ambo and Nekemte in the West of Ethiopia), I met an Indian farmer who was farming about 2000 ha of land in the area. His company can be seen as one of the "land grabbers" from my previous post.
He has explained to me that two businesses are promising in Ethiopia : sugar and oil (by the way the two goods that where impossible to purchase in Addis for many weeks).
The Indian company has two different plans. The first is to expand the sugar cane production and to build an own processing factory. Secondly, it wants to increase the oil seed production. Currently, mainly sesame and niger (neug) are planted in Ethiopia. Especially, the neug is very labor intensive as it needs to be harvested by hand. It is therefore difficult to increase productivity. Therefore, the Indian farmer would like to grow sunflowers, which harvesting can be mechanized. I liked the idea a lot, and talk to a CGIAR scientist about it. He explained that sunflowers disappeared from the Ethiopian highlands because of a specific root disease. To make sunflowers a success story, it is important to invest into research to find a suitable varieties for that location. Maybe this is the future task of the the agricultural research center that currently focuses more on sorghum and maize.

Land grabbing or not, this company invests both in processing factory within the country as well as agricultural innovation to increase agricultural productivity...

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