[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 09:55 GMT
Israelis bring high-tech food to Angola
By Sarah Grainger
BBC, Luanda

An Israeli company is using the latest water-saving technology to grow fruit and vegetables in Angola, which imports much of its food after 27 years of civil war.

People picking tomatoes
No water is wasted in growing the crops
"I think Angola is experiencing a boom time right now," says Uri Ben Basat, co-manager of Terra Verde, a 45-hectare farm outside the capital Luanda.

The farm was set up at the end of the war in 2002 and has been harvesting tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, mangoes, melons and grapes for three years.

In fact, the farm produces 35 tonnes of vegetables every week of the year, selling most of this food to supermarkets and restaurants in Luanda.

During the war, the agricultural sector was devastated.

Bridges were blown up and roads and railways mined, so the food which was grown locally could not be transported to where it was needed.

Those who could afford to, came to rely on expensive imports from the rest of the world, rather than food grown within Angola.

Computer

Terra Verde is a joint Angolan-Israeli business, but the agricultural expertise comes from Europe and Israel.

The company has built its own pumping station 6km away on the banks of the River Bengo to ensure that its drip-irrigation system, where plants are fed water and fertilizer drip by drip through ground level pipes, would never run dry.

Because of the war there are untold numbers of mines out there and goods and people can't move freely
Rick Corsino
WFP Country Director
A computer programme calculates the exact amounts of water needed, depending on temperature and humidity.

Different varieties of vegetables are grown both in open fields and greenhouses depending on their suitability to Angola's almost tropical climate.

And the company buys in boxes of bees to pollinate its tomato plants organically.

All this investment came with a price tag of some $8m.

The company says the farm is paying its way but will not say how much profit they make or what their turnover is like.

"This is a long-term project," says marketing manager Merav Zacharin.

"Terra Verde is very much our calling card. We want investors to see what we have done here and realise that we could build the same thing for them somewhere else in Angola."

Government help

Some 200 jobs have already been created and the company is expanding.

Another farms has been set up in Kwanza Sul province, which is 10 times bigger than Terra Verde at 450 hectares.

"Angola is hungry for food now," says Mr Ben Basat.

Lines of peppers
Most of the produce is destined for upmarket supermarkets
"They have an impressive history of agricultural production, lots of good land and water."

But 27 years of civil war have taken their toll.

"The biggest problem this country has is access to food," according to WFP Country Director Rick Corsino.

"There are certain parts of the country in which most of the food is grown. Because of the war there are untold numbers of mines out there and goods and people can't move freely."

This is why those residents of Luanda who can afford to, still rely heavily on expensive imported food and Terra Verde sees imported vegetables as its main competitor.

A kilo of tomatoes costs about $4 in the supermarket, compared to $6 for imported produce.

This is not cheap food and the average Angolan can't afford the produce grown at Terra Verde.

Their market includes large supermarkets, restaurants and the country's big employers - the oil and diamond companies.

Mr Ben Basat thinks there's only one way to lower prices considerably in Angola.

"In most countries the government assists the agricultural sector. But here they haven't helped us at all," he says.

"It's very expensive to produce here and so the prices are very high. If they want the prices to go down so that everybody from Angola can buy our product, then it needs the power of the government. I don't see any other way."




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Angola's carnival
01 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
Timeline: Angola
08 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
28 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific