Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rich countries grab land for food and profit

Fears for the world's poor countries as the rich grab land to grow food
The Guardian: The acquisition of farmland from the world's poor by rich countries and international corporations is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe's farmland targeted in the last six months... The land grab is being blamed on wealthy countries with concerns about food security...

Oliver De Schutter, special envoy for food at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that about one-fifth of the land deals were expected to grow biofuel crops... Some of the world's largest food, financial and car companies have invested in land...

Devinder Sharma, analyst with the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in India, predicted civil unrest. 'Outsourcing food production will ensure food security for investing countries but would leave behind a trail of hunger, starvation and food scarcities for local populations. The environmental tab of highly intensive farming -- devastated soils, dry aquifer, and ruined ecology from chemical infestation -- will be left for the host country to pick up.'

Concern is mounting because much of the land has been targeted for its good water supplies and proximity to ports. According to a report last month by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, the land deals 'create risks and opportunities.'

'Increased investment may bring benefits such as GDP growth and improved government revenues, and may create opportunities for economic development and livelihood improvement. But they may result in local people losing access to the resources on which they depend for their food security.'...

According to a US-based think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, nearly $20bn to $30bn a year is being spent by rich countries on land in developing countries.

Blog set up by Grain posting news reports about the global rush to buy or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy to secure basic food supplies or simply for profit. It serves as a resource for those monitoring or researching the issue, particularly social activists, NGOs and journalists.
Image source here.