June 29, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s minister of agriculture Abdel Halim al-Mutafi, announced that his government signed an agricultural cooperation agreement with Beijing which gives Chinese companies several options to operate in Sudan.
- A Sudanese farmer stands in a field of sorghum in Gezira state (AFP)
According to the agreement Chinese companies could directly invest in Sudan, engage in partnerships with local partners, or fund agro-processing and food production projects.
The accord aims at promoting Sudan self-sufficiency and exporting surpluses to China and the rest of the world to contribute to solving the world’s food shortage, the minister said.
Al-Mutafi added in statements to Chinese media on the sidelines of the second session of the strategic dialogue between China and Sudan on Saturday that Sudan seeks to transfer the Chinese experience and advanced technologies to boost agricultural production.
He said that the visit also aimed at attending the fourth forum on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) cooperation between China, West Asia, and North Africa countries.
The Sudanese delegation currently visiting Beijing is led by presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie and several ministers from Sudan’s economic sector as well as a group of businessmen.
Al-Mutafi, disclosed that both countries have agreed on the major strategic issues and regional and international relations as well as Sudan’s internal issues.
He underscored the importance of the dialogue and said that it offered a good opportunity to discuss the recent problems between Sudan and South Sudan, mentioning the positive role which China could play to promote peace between the two countries.
The Sudanese official further said that his country’s relation with China is progressing slowly but in a deliberate and calculated manner, pointing to the joint investment in oil industry as well as minerals and agriculture.
He added that China’s increasing food consumption and Sudan’s large fertile land enhance opportunities for agricultural cooperation between the two countries.
Last year Sudan granted China permission to set up a free-trade zone for agricultural products and livestock to boost bilateral transactions.
Once hoped to be the breadbasket of the Arab world, Sudan’s agricultural sector has continued to deteriorate over the years mainly as a result of negligence, drought, mismanagement, high taxes and the overall economic climate.
Sudanese farmers often complain about the high costs of imported materials such as fertilizers. Many of them were sent to jail as their debt piled up.
Several ambitious plans enacted to bring life to the sector have failed to materialize and critics say the government forfeited a golden opportunity during the oil boom to boost agriculture.
Foreign investors also complain about lack of infrastructure and unfriendly laws which they say deters them from putting money in Sudan’s vast farmlands.