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Lebanese farmland firm GLB to invest up to $800M in Sudan

A Sudanese woman sorts sorghum grains after threshing on a field near Mukjar in Western Darfur, Sudan, 09 December 2007. Photo by: Peter Steffen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

KHARTOUM: Lebanese farmland investor GLB Invest plans to sink up to $800 million in Sudan to produce animal feed to be sold to Saudi Arabia, its president said Tuesday.

Arab investors have launched farmland and livestock projects in the vast African country, prized for its fertile soil and easy access to irrigation water from the Nile, to help arid Gulf oil producers secure food supplies.

Firas Badra, president of Beirut-based GLB Invest, said the firm had leased 78,000 hectares of land 130 km north of Khartoum to produce and export 40,000 tons annually of animal feed to Saudi Arabia.

“We are starting now with 40,000 tons for the time being and the project will have a maximum capacity of 750,000 tons by 2019,” Badra told Reuters on the sidelines of an Arab food investment conference in the Sudanese capital.

“Next year we are going to reach 250,000 tons,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is a market of 4 million tons.”

The Sudanese pound has more than halved in value since South Sudan’s secession in 2011 deprived Sudan of most oil production, the main source for dollars and state revenues.

GLB has so far spent $200 million in Sudan and will increase investment up to between $750 million and $800 million by 2019, he said.

As a second project, GLB planned to plant 200,000 sunflower seeds, which would then be crushed to make sunflower oil to be sold inside of Sudan, he said, adding that a part of it would also be exported to neighboring countries.

He added that the investment climate in Sudan was good despite central bank restrictions on repatriating profits in hard currency, a common complaint from foreign investors.

“We can find solutions for that,” Badra said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 22, 2013, on page 5.

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