Sunday, September 02, 2012

US investor accused of trying to fund Dar agribusiness with relief grain


 In Summary:
  • Bruce Rastetter, through his company AgriSol, which is investing in soybean farming on 800,000 acres of land in Rukwa, sought international food aid funds from the United States Department of Agriculture in the form of grain that was to be shipped to Tanzania in containers and sold in the country.
  • Documents seen by The EastAfrican reveal that AgriSol attempted to use a partnership with Iowa State University to get the US government funding.
     
  • The AgriSol application explains that the proceeds from the food sales would help with infrastructure and start up costs for its industrial agribusiness project in Tanzania — which US activists contend could displace 160,000 refugee farmers.
  • According to AgriSol’s proposal, the US firm was to acquire 10,000 hectares of land in Lugufi refugee camp and another 3,000 hectares near Basanza village in Kigoma.
     
  • The memorandum of understanding between the Tanzania government and AgriSol of the US, which has also been seen by The EastAfrican, states that the government will remove all remaining refugees before AgriSol takes over the land.

Full Story:
It has emerged that the US investor behind a controversial agribusiness project in the Southern Highlands region of Rukwa wanted to sell relief grain from the US government in Tanzania to finance the venture.

Bruce Rastetter, through his company AgriSol, which is investing in soybean farming on 800,000 acres of land in Rukwa, sought international food aid funds from the United States Department of Agriculture in the form of grain that was to be shipped to Tanzania in containers and sold in the country.

Documents seen by The EastAfrican reveal that AgriSol attempted to use a partnership with Iowa State University to get the US government funding.

Working with the university’s faculty, AgriSol applied in 2011 for more than $7 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of food aid, which AgriSol and its affiliate in Tanzania would sell in Tanzania.

The AgriSol application explains that the proceeds from the food sales would help with infrastructure and start up costs for its industrial agribusiness project in Tanzania — which US activists contend could displace 160,000 refugee farmers.

Lori Nelson of the lobby group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), told The EastAfricanthat AgriSol presented the project as a humanitarian effort to develop agriculture in Tanzania in the application for food aid.

Iowa State University, where Mr Rastetter is president Pro Tem of the Board of Regents, officially backed out of the USDA application process in mid-September 2011, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Ms Nelson said that the USDA ultimately denied AgriSol’s application for funding in fiscal year 2012. “It’s outrageous that AgriSol tried using Iowa State University’s name to get US taxpayers and poor Tanzanians to pay his start-up costs,” she said.

Patricia Sheikh, deputy administrator for the Office of Capacity Building and Development in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), told The EastAfrican that after careful consideration, AgriSol’s application was not approved for funding for fiscal year 2012.

Seeking funds:

The application, which The EastAfrican has seen, shows that AgriSol, which identifies itself as a profit-making company sought $7,324 million in aid, which amounts to almost 13 per cent of AgriSol’s total stated costs.

According to AgriSol’s proposal, the US firm was to acquire 10,000 hectares of land in Lugufi refugee camp and another 3,000 hectares near Basanza village in Kigoma.

AgriSol was to ship 1,321 metric tonnes of crude sunflower oil, 1,871 tonnes of well milled long grain rice, 1,871 tonnes of well milled medium grain rice, 4,456 tonnes of cornmeal and 2,970 tonnes of bread flour.

The crude sunflower was to be sold at $1,700 per tonne — fetching a total of $224,570; the medium and long grain rice at $500 per tonne — fetching a total of $1,871,00; the cornmeal at $429 per tonne — fetching a total of $187,152; and the bread flour at $630 per tonne — fetching a total of $187,110.

The consignment, according to the documents, was to be received at the Dar es Salaam port by AgriSol Energy Tanzania Ltd and co-ordinated by Serengeti Advisers of Tanzania.

The memorandum of understanding between the Tanzania government and AgriSol of the US, which has also been seen by The EastAfrican, states that the government will remove all remaining refugees before AgriSol takes over the land.

The MoU also states that AgriSol will work in partnership with international seed firms Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Valley and Yara for seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and equipment needed for farming in Tanzania.
AgriSol will develop pilot farms for “biotechnological” seeds through the international seed firms for sale in the East African countries.


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