Saudi Billionaire to Invest $600 Million in Ethiopia Cooking Oil
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – An Ethiopian company majority-owned by Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi plans to invest $600 million over two years to produce edible oil, its general manager said.
Horizon Plantations Ethiopia leased a 20,000-hectare (49,400-acre) plot in the northwestern Benishangul-Gumuz region last month to grow groundnuts, as part of a government drive to boost commercial agriculture, Jemal Ahmed said in an interview on April 3 in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian-born al-Amoudi, who is ranked by Forbes magazine as the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 63rd-richest person and was worth $12.3 billion in March, owns 80 percent of the company, according to Ahmed.
The Horn of Africa nation imports up to 250,000 tons of palm oil a year from Malaysia, at a cost of more than $300 million, said Jemal, whose company Ahfa Pvt. Ltd. used to be one of the top five importers of the product. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want to substitute that with this project.Ã¢â‚¬Â
At full capacity, HorizonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s farm, which may be ready for planting next year, should produce 150,000 tons of oil a year from a processing plant in Bahir Dar city in Amhara region, according to Jemal.
EthiopiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Agriculture Ministry has transferred 100,000 hectares in Benishangul to commercial farmers as part of the agriculture project, and is offering a further 981,000 hectares, about one-fifth of the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s land. Nationwide, the government says it plans to increase a land bankÃ‚Â that sets aside 3.6 million hectares of EthiopiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s total 110.4 million hectares for commercial farming.
The four-year-old program has forcibly relocated more than 1 million Ethiopians in the south and east of the country, according to the California-based advocacy groupÃ‚Â Oakland Institute. The government rejects the allegation.
HorizonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s river-irrigated plot, which it says the government will increase to 35,000 hectares when 10,000 hectares of the initial area is cleared, is Ã¢â‚¬Å“barren land,Ã¢â‚¬Â according to Jemal. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are no human beings living in it,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Last month, the Addis Ababa-based company bought Gojeb Agricultural Development Enterprise in the southern region from the government for 35.1 million birr ($2 million), Jemal said. It plans to grow bananas and pineapple for export on 1,500 hectares. Horizon jointly runs the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest coffee estate, Bebeka, with the government in southwest Ethiopia, he said.
Al-AmoudiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s companies also won bids for four other state- owned enterprises, including the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest orange-grower, Upper Awash Agro-Industry Enterprise, Privatization Agency spokesman Wondefrash Assefa said on March 29.