While much attention is being paid to
the global economic crisis, the food crisis continues. However, the high food
prices and shortages have now prompted a land grab in many developing
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says countries such as
China, Korea and the United Arab Emirates are buying or leasing agricultural
land to help meet their own food needs. However, the implications of these land
purchases are unclear. IFPRI Director-General Joachim von Braun outlines the
reasons for the land grab.
"Long-term under-investment in
agriculture, especially research and development and small farmer
growth-oriented investment, was too small. Food stocks were too low. Bio-fuels
were eating into food availability. Speculation came on top of this and out of
that came the food price bubble of 2008. Trade failed and even rich countries
could not access food. And out of that came the new motivation for large-scale
foreign direct investment by countries with capital, but short in land and
water," he says.
Braun says many details of the land deals are unknown because of a lack of
transparency. But he estimates the amount of land and money involved.
adds up to 15 to 20 million hectares currently under negotiation…. So it's
fairly large. How much money is involved? If we add up the deals negotiated and
the investments planned, it adds up to $20 to $30 billion of investment," he
compares that to the new $2 billion dollar World Bank emergency package for
agriculture or the Obama administration's new $1.2 billion investment in food
security. He says the deals present both "opportunities and threats."
opportunities are to have increased capital flowing into agriculture and
facilitate growth. The threats relate to problems around small farmer
agriculture and ecological sustainability and potentially reactivation of
banana republic syndromes, where the foreign direct investors get involved in
national policies, as experienced in the 1970s in Latin America," he says.
Recommendations to deal with the land
issue include a strong code of conduct for respecting local land rights, the
sharing of agricultural benefits, environmental sustainability and adherence to
national trade policies to ensure that national self-sufficiency takes