By Amena Bakr
Ukraine president says UAE delegation set to visit to look at farmland opportunities.
A UAE delegation plans to visit Ukraine in two weeks' time to look at opportunities to lease farmland for food security, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko has revealed.
Gulf countries, mainly reliant on food imports, have increased efforts over the last year to buy or lease land in developing nations to secure food supplies.
"I have agreed with the President of the UAE that an official delegation will be coming to Ukraine in two weeks' time to look at opportunities of investing in the agriculture sector," Viktor Yushchenko told Reuters during a visit to UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
He did not say how much land the UAE was seeking.
Around 40 percent of the world's fertile black soil areas are in Ukraine, and foreign investment is needed to develop the sector, Yushchenko said.
Ukraine's agriculture minister Yuri Melnyk said the UAE delegation would be shown opportunities for growing crops such as wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil.
"Already we have received a lot of interest from the UAE to invest in Ukraine's agriculture sector, and we are offering all kinds of projects such as leasing of 100,000 hectares of land to the creation of animal farms with 3000 cows," he added.
Food prices have risen sharply over the past year, prompting government and private sector firms in the Middle East to look into ways of securing supplies, as most of the food in the region is imported.
Last week, a joint venture between Pharos Financial Group, a fund management firm based in Dubai, and Miro Holdings International said they planned to launch a $350 million fund by the end of the year, and aim to acquire 50,000 hectares of land in Romania.
In October, Qatar's Hassad Food said it was eyeing a stake in Russia's grain processing firm PAVA.
Yushchenko also said that to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries and boost economic activities the UAE had agreed to open an embassy in Ukraine by next year.
"There was a gap in the relations, so with the opening of the embassy during the first half of the year we will have closer ties with the UAE," he said. (Reuters)