Karuturi Global plants Sugar and Other Crops in Gambela, Ethiopia


Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd, founded by Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, is the worlds largest producer of cut flowers. In 2008 Karuturi invested in agriculture in Africa through its Dubai holding company, Karuturi Overseas. Ethiopia and Karuturi signed an agreement in November 2010 for a long-term lease on 11,000 ha in the Oromia Region and a 50-year lease on 100,000 ha in the Gambela Region, with an option for another 200,000 ha if the company completed the project within two years. By 2012 only 12,000 ha were planted with rice and corn, prompting the government to renegotiate the lease and reduce the landholding to 100,000 ha. Human Rights Watch, The Anywaa Survival Organisation, and other opposition movements have accused the Ethiopian government of forcing farmers from the area leased to Karuturi (and other international companies) to resettle via the ‘villagization’ program, and violent repression, but on May 18th, 2012, the US government denied allegations of coercion and abuse on behalf of this program. Karuturi has failed to make satisfactory progress (just 5% of the area is under cultivation in 2013), causing the Ethiopian government to rewrite policy and only lease more than 5,000 ha if an initial project is completed in a timely manner. On April 22nd, 2013, the Kenyan government found Karuturi guilty of tax evasion for nearly $11 million.

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Basic Data
NameKaruturi Global plants Sugar and Other Crops in Gambela, Ethiopia
ProvinceGambela and Oromia
SiteBako, Oromia and Ilea, Gambela
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesCorn/Maize
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsKaruturi has leased 100,000 ha of land for 50 years to produce corn, oil, rice, flowers, and sugar for export, hoping to reach an annual export level of 1.3 million metric tons of sugar. It has already worked out a 40,000-tonne-per-year supply agreement with Djibouti, and is negotiating similar deals with other African countries. The government of Ethiopia is planning to spend 1.4 billion dollars to increase sugar plant infrastructure to support this project.

Project Area (in hectares)311,000
Level of Investment (in USD)500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationVillage Ilea, 100,000 people in the tribe Anywaa o
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesKaruturi Global Ltd from India
Karuturi Overseas Ltd
Gambella Green Valley Plc from Ethiopia
Karuturi Agro Products Plc from Ethiopia
Surya Blossoms Plc from Kenya
Water Watch - irrigation for the project
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Agriculture and Rural Development
International and Financial InstitutionsCommercial Bank of Ethiopia from Ethiopia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCultural Survival, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/, Oakland Institute, http://oaklandinstitute.org/, Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org, Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO, http://www.anywaasurvival.org
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local Population, International NGOs
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Advocacy by international NGO and diaspora groups
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesConduct environmental assessment surveys, enforce relocation only if voluntary policy
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Due to pressure by NGOs and organizers the Ethiopian government has set up the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate to monitor land allotment which, according to its chief Essays Kebede, will be capped at its current levels. However evidence abounds of human rights violations in the villigazation process, which continues.
Sources and Materials

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Human Rights Watch, 2012, 'Waiting Here For Death'
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ICRA Equity Research Service, 2011, 'Karuturi Global Limited'


, 'Land rent contractual agreement made between Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Karuturi Agro Products PLC'
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, 'African roses are as beautiful'
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, 'Karuturi Global Ltd contemplating $2.5 billion investment in Tanzanias agriculture'
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, 'Karuturi sets sight on sugarcane crushing factory'
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Ethiopia Investor, 'Controversial Karuturi to go Public, Here'
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The Hindu, 2013, 'Karuturi debacle prompts Ethiopia to review land policy'
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GRAIN, 2013, 'Karuturi Guilty of Tax Evasion'
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Media Links

Marant, Alexis, (Capa Presse TV) 'Planet for Sale'
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Other CommentsSays Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi in January 2012, 'We are also working closely with the government to build a healthy relationship with India. I am currently the honorary consul-general for Ethiopia in Bangalore.'
Meta Information
ContributorAliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014