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Ethiopia has made more than four million hectares (9.9 million acres) of “fertile and unutilized” land available for agriculture companies that meet government requirements, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.

About 300,000 hectares has been leased for commercial farming so far, he said at an Ethiopian investment forum today in the capital, Addis Ababa.

“There has been a significant flow into large-scale state- type commercial farming in our country and we seek even more in the future,” he said

Investors in Ethiopian land include Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd. (KARG), the world’s largest rose grower, which is developing 100,000 hectares in Ethiopia’s southwestern Gambella region.

Horizon Plantations Ethiopia, which is majority owned by Saudi billionaire Mohamed al-Amoudi, leased a 20,000-hectare plot in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region in March to grow groundnuts to produce cooking oil.

New land will only be allocated to applicants who submit “proper” business and land-use plans, manage the environment and provide jobs for local citizens, Meles said.

Inadequate applications are “perhaps one of the reasons we’ve not succeeded in allocating more than 10 percent of land that has been allocated for investment,” he said. The government has repossessed land from inactive operators, Meles said.

(Agencies)