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UPDATE 1-UAE's Al Dahra signs crop deal with Bulgaria-based AJD Agro

(Adds details)

DUBAI, April 20 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi-based agriculture firm Al Dahra Holding has signed a crop supply deal with Bulgarian agribusiness group AJD Agro Ltd, the UAE state news agency said on Monday.

The news agency said the deal covers the cultivation and supply of essential crops and forage, including alfalfa and other grasses, used in animal feed.

The agreement also includes setting up forage processing and dehydrating plants across various locations in Bulgaria in the near future.

Countries in the Gulf, one of the world’s biggest food importing regions, have stepped up efforts to buy and lease farmland in emerging economies to secure food supplies since 2007-2008, when food prices rose to record levels.

Al Dahra has previously invested in Bulgaria through Loulis Mills, a Greek-based flour miller in which it owns a stake, the news agency report said.

Loulis Mills acquired the largest flour mill operator in Bulgaria, it said.

The report also said AJD Agro grows crops on more than 4,000 hectares of land across the Lovech region in Bulgaria and currently operates an alfalfa dehydration plant with an annual alfalfa production capacity of 20,000 tonnes.

In addition to alfalfa, wheat and corn, AJD Agro is expanding its business to include dehydrated corn silage, oaten hay and ryegrass. (Reporting By Hadeel Al Sayegh, Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Jon Boyle and Jane Merriman)

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