KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The highly nutritious animal fodder alfalfa is in high demand in the Gulf Region and elsewhere around the World.
This high demand has prompted entrepreneurs both local and foreign to grow it on a large scale in several parts of the country.
Also known by its scientific name medicago sativa and the name lucerne, Alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world.
It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop. The name alfalfa is used in North America. The name lucerne is the more commonly used name in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Alfalfa is native to warmer temperate climates. It has become part of Sudan’s animal fodder for a long time now, widely grown in the Northern and Central parts of the country.
Alfalfa flourishes in all types of soil, save saline soil. Previously alfalfa was grown by small farmers using river or bore water. Those farmers used surface (canal) irrigation to water the crop. But with the growing demand for the crop, businesses started to irrigate their wide fields through center pivots that now spread widely in the country.
Alfalfa is an enduring grass that can stay in the soil for five years in some cases. Its roots pierce deep into the soil, going down to three meters in some cases. It is harvested every month. After it is harvested it re-grows and gives the farmer a new harvest next month.
Livestock consume alfalfa fresh and dried (hay). Dried and grinned alfalfa is also part of concentrated livestock and poultry fodder.
Alfalfa is also used in the treatment of renal inflammations and the removal of renal stones.
Alfalfa is also convenient in that it provides a green cover in areas threatened with desertification. It also enhances the soil through the addition of nitrogen.
Of late alfalfa growers have been collecting handsome profits, in particular when it started to be exported to Arabia.
To cover the mounting demand for alfalfa in the Gulf, investors have recently launched large scale farms around Khartoum and in the North. The West Omdurman 10,000-acre fodder farm is projected to generate an annual profit of 20 million US Dollars. The Saudi business tycoon al-Rajhi is investing heavily in alfalfa production in the country. The U.A.E Amtar (rains) is growing alfalfa on a big farm in North Kordofan in the Midwest, using center pivot irrigation from bore water. The Amtar farm operators project to export 20,000 fattened calves a month. Jordanian firms also grow vast areas with alfalfa north of Khartoum. The 9000-acre Jordanian Bashayir (good omens) Farm produces a monthly 65-100 thousand tons of alfalfa. One ton of alfalfa fetches USD 250.
Local businesses active in wide-scale cultivation of alfalfa include the DAL Group and the Central Trade Company (CTC). The DAL Group had reportedly collected USD 80 million from fodder exports in 2016.
Alfalfa production in Sudan has a very promising future, given the widening global consumption gap. The Arabian market alone needs an annual 20 million tons of alfalfa, compared to the available output of just 5 million tons.
The Sudanese Ministry of Investment says has prepared a lot of new feasibility studies for more alfalfa production farms around the country.
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