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Media reports reveal secret items of Saudi-Sudanese agricultural deal

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July 22, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - A Saudi online newspaper on Friday has disclosed some items of a secret agricultural agreement that allows Saudi Arabia to cultivate one million feddans of land in eastern Sudan.

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A Sudanese farmer stands in a field of sorghum in Gezira state (AFP)

Last month, Sudan’s National Assembly unanimously approved a legal framework agreement that gives Saudi Arabia the right to cultivate lands in Upper Atbara and Setait Dam project for 99 years.

While deliberating on the agreement, some MPs objected to the length of time for the project. They called to reduce it to 20-25 years and suggested to renegotiate the contract at the end of its term.

Also, the lawmakers criticized a clause providing to keep confidential the agreement and its terms, saying this confidentiality could jeopardize the rights of the landlords.

On Monday, the Sudanese lawmakers approved the project’s bill converting it into an Act of Parliament.

According to the bill, Saudi Arabia would invest $10 billion in the first 10-year phase to build the infrastructure before moving to the next phase which would involve land reformation.

Saudi online newspaper Al-Wiaam on Friday said Sudan has allocated one million feddans for Saudi agricultural investment in Upper Atbara, pointing the Kingdom would cultivate the land according to its own appropriate priorities.

It disclosed that 88% of the production would go to Saudi Arabia while Sudan will receive the remaining 12% in return for the use of land, water, electricity and other resources.

The newspaper pointed that the Kingdom’s strategy targets African countries which enjoy agricultural, animal and fish investment potentials provided that the host country allows the exportation of at least 50% of the feed grains to Saudi Arabia.

Last year, Sudan’s National Investment Authority (NIA) said it offered Saudi Arabia six agricultural projects in various states in north and east Sudan to carry out the food security plan.

According to the NIA, Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab investor in Sudan with more than 590 projects.

The Sudanese government had earlier expected that Saudi investments in Sudan will increase to $15bn in 2016 compared to $11bn in 2015.

Sudanese-Saudi relations have witnessed a thaw in recent months after years of tensions over Khartoum’s close ties with Tehran that saw Iranian warships dock several times in Port Sudan.

(ST)

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