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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
India farmers may be Africa bound
Parched farmland
The state's farmers may be able to escape perennial droughts
The government of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is considering sending farmers to East Africa to cultivate farmland.

A senior government adviser has left for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to hold talks on the issue.

Under the plan, farmers will be helped to set up co-operatives, and can send earnings back to families in India.

Andhra Pradesh's farmers have for many years been hit by drought which has led to a high rate of suicides.

"This is a business opportunity for Andhra farmers who are well-versed in tropical and arid area farming," the state's agriculture minister, N Raghuveera Reddy, told the Reuters news agency.

Plan ridiculed

If the host countries agree, around 1,000 Indian farmers would grow tobacco, sugarcane, millet and other dry crops.

The state's adviser on foreign investment, CC Reddy, says Andhra Pradesh should lease about 50,000 to 100,000 acres of African land to be cultivated by its farmers.

Co-operatives would employ the farmers and lease costs would be repaid through farm earnings.

State agriculture officials stress that talks are at a preliminary stage and there are no immediate plans for farmers to leave.

The main opposition Telugu Desam party has ridiculed the proposal.

Nearly 3,000 farmers have committed suicide over the past six years in Andhra Pradesh.

In May the state's new government announced a relief package for families of all farmers who have taken their lives since 1999.

Plea to suicidal Indian farmers
21 May 04  |  South Asia
Suicide spree on India's farms
03 Jun 04  |  South Asia
Andhra Pradesh chief takes office
14 May 04  |  South Asia

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