The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.
A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar - although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.
Investor interest in farmland – not only in Africa – grew sharply after food prices shot to record highs last year. Although commodity prices have fallen since, there is still anticipation of long term demand growth once the world emerges from its current economic troubles.
Philippe Heilberg, chairman and CEO of New York-based investment firm Jarch Capital, told Reuters he saw ripe opportunity for decades in south Sudan’s Mayom county. The deal covers land nearly twice the size of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
Land is being leased from General Paulino Matip Nhial, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) - the armed wing of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in semi-autonomous South Sudan. Jarch Management is also buying an interest in a local company from Matip’s son.