A group including several UAE private and public sector firms has paid an estimated $40 million to buy farmland in Pakistan as part of the Emirates' strategy to lower food import costs, UAE daily The National reported on Monday.
The land amounts to 16,187 hectares and is located in Balochistan province, the paper said.
The seven-member delegation comprising representatives of the investment firms and led by UAE businessman Khadim Abdullah Al-Dahiri, has been in Pakistan for the past week and is "shortly" expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Balochistan provincial government, the paper quoted a senior Pakistan government official as saying.
The land is in the catchment area of the Mirani Dam and will require a further $20m investment to introduce irrigation and improvements to the land's fertility, the official said.
"Both investors and the Balochistan government have agreed to jointly undertake infrastructure development in the areas surrounding the farmland,"
the official, who declined to be named, said.
He would not reveal which UAE firms had made the investment, the paper added.
A second delegation, comprising representatives of the UAE Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Agriculture as well as up to six senior officials from public and private firms involved in the business of importing food, is also expected to visit Pakistan by the end of this year, according to the official.
The UAE delegation was originally scheduled to leave for Islamabad last month to visit farmland in four Pakistani provinces and meet several farming families to explore the possibilities of forming joint ventures but political instability and security concerns delayed the trip, it said.
The UAE’s Ministry of Economy and individual investors have been in talks with Pakistan since the beginning of the year to buy land there, but this is the first official visit of investors to Pakistan, the paper said.
Al Qudra Holding, the Abu Dhabi-based investment company, said in August said it planned to buy around 400,000 hectares of land in the Middle East, East Africa and Far East by March 2009.
Abu Dhabi Group, the single-largest foreign direct investor in Pakistan, Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital, a Dubai-based investment firm, have all expressed interest in Pakistan’s agricultural sector.