Saudi Arabia revives interest in Pakistani farmland

Post Source: By Ikram Hoti – The News , Thursday, September 03, 2009

ISLAMABAD: A national coordinator would be appointed soon after Ramazan in case Islamabad and Saudi authorities ink a deal for the purchase of half-a-million hectares of farmland in Pakistan.

“An expression of interest (EOI) is already there from the Saudi authorities,” said a senior official talking to The News, requesting not to be named for divulging certain aspects of the deal yet to be officially made public. He added that not only wheat, vegetables and fruits would be sown on this land under sovereign lease guarantees but also allied processing units would be set up and a network of dairy would also be a part of the project.

“Not less than a million people would be offered employment on these farms, which would be the largest ever mechanised-farming experiment on the lands of this country.” The national coordinator would be appointed by the federal government to approach the relevant provincial departments that hold the public land that can be put up for leasing. Thirty years would be the minimum period for such a lease and it might be extended in case the experiment proves to be a success story.

Sweet water reservoirs would be encouraged for use in farming while DAP fertiliser units (it is presently being imported) might also be set up for the farms to be created in all the four provinces. The venture might prove to be the largest injection of finances and manpower in the history of Pakistan, said the source.

He added that Pakistan happened to be the eighth or the ninth largest sweet water and unused soil country in the world after China, India, US, Canada, some parts of Europe, Brazil and South Africa.

“It is an attraction that holds the promise of future farming investors. The allied processing industry to be set up for wheat, rice, fruits and vegetable crops would be the windfall while the waste would also generate market activity.”

Once the national coordinator for acquiring the land is appointed, the relevant provincial departments would be engaged in lease-money determination at both the provincial and federal levels, he added.

The Saudi government might also encourage expansion in the present agri-technicians producing networks in Pakistan as well as creation of new ones. The dairy, the agri-technical institutions and the processing units might be a finance-employment boost to the economy of Pakistan, he said.

When asked if Pakistan would be encouraging mechanised-farming ventures from other countries too, he said such considerations were based on the project’s nature and the relations between the offering countries and Pakistan.

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