Agribusiness in South Sudan

South Sudan is a country with a very high potential for expanding and developing the agricultural sector as 90% of its land is considered suitable for agriculture and 50% is prime agricultural land. The Country has over 30 million hectares of arable land with only 5% currently in use.

Image of the livelihood zones in South Sudan

Fewsnet, November 2009

Crop Production and Horticulture: There are various ecological zones in South Sudan and all areas have the capacity for crop production. In particular the greenbelt zone has high agricultural potential, as there are two cropping seasons. The main crops currently grown in South Sudan include maize, sorghum, finger millet, cassava, sweet potato and groundnuts. Main fruit varieties include bananas, plantain, pineapple, mango and citrus whilst the main vegetable varieties are onion, okra, cabbage, eggplant, pumpkin and cucumber.

Livestock: Livestock form an integral part of the lives of over two thirds of the South Sudanese population. In particular, it is a major source of livelihoods in the flood plains, semi-arid and pastoral areas. The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has estimated that there are approximately eleven million cattle in South Sudan. In the past, meat was exported from South Sudan to the Middle East. Presently, the majority of the meat now produced in the Country could be classified as organic.

Fisheries and Aquaculture: The world’s longest river, the River Nile, flows through South Sudan and also provides large potential for development of fisheries. In particular, it has been estimated that in the Sudd area of South Sudan, there is a production potential for 100,000 – 300,000 MT of fish per year. Furthermore, there is large potential for aquaculture development in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Western Equatoria, Northern Bahar Gazal, Western Bahar Gazal and Warrap States.

Forestry: Forests make up 29% of the land area of South Sudan, which amounts to approximately 191,667km2. These forests provide sources for high-grade timber, including teak, mahogany and ebony. The teak plantation is the largest of its kind in the world. Furthermore, the forests provide for the production of high quality oils, such as shea, as well as Gum Arabic. These are also areas of high biodiversity with large, diverse populations of flora and fauna.

Land Tenure: In South Sudan, the land belongs to the people. The Land Act (2009) classified land ownership into three categories, Communal Land, Public Land and Private Land. All the people fall under at least one of the three categories. Land that belongs to the Community is owned collectively in perpetuity. Non-citizen private investors can acquire leaseholds up to 99 years. It is also possible for them to access communal land by making an official agreement with the community, including the promotion of alternate business models that cater to the needs of the local populations such as giving communities an equity stake in the venture. These agreements must be sanctioned by the land authorities and must follow certain rules.

Farmer Base: Most farmers in South Sudan are subsistence farmers; however, there are also a good number of farmer organizations such as associations, cooperatives and unions. These farmer groups, as well as individual farmers, are always willing to explore business opportunities with their full participation.

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: As indicated previously, South Sudan has a huge agricultural potential worth exploring. The most immediate opportunities are in cereals, oilseeds, sugar, export/cash crops (horticulture -fruits and vegetables- floriculture, coffee and tea), animal products (meat, dairy and leather), fisheries (tilapia, Nile perch and catfish, fish farms and processing facilities) and forestry (huge future for hardwood and softwood –teak, eucalyptus, pines). Perhaps the best business model to follow for an agricultural investor or entrepreneur willing to tap this potential is through Joint Ventures (JV’s). These JV’s can vary somewhat in their makeup. They could be with farmer organizations, with local private sector business men, with local and/or foreign companies already established in South Sudan and with Government owned corporations. Contract growing is also a good possibility.

Sources of Information:

  1.  Economic Development of Southern Sudan (Benaiah Yongo-Bure, 2007)The Land Herald. 
  2. Investor Guide. South Sudan, The World’s Newest Investment Destination. Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment (2011)
  3. The Joint Agricultural Baseline Survey Report on the Agriculture and Animal Resources in Southern Sudan (Baseline Technical Team, October 2010)
  4. The Land Herald. A News Letter of the Norwegian People’s Aid. Vol 1/2012