Thursday, 21 May 2009

Corporate land grabs in Africa

Not a land grab, a refugee farm in Darfur: United Methodist Relief photo
The International Food Policy Research Institute has just released a
detailed report on huge corporate purchases of land in some of the poorest countries in Africa. In the next food crisis, huge profits can be made, while millions starve. Some secret agreements came to light during last month's rebellion in Madagascar. See more details in the IFPRI food blog and Geoffrey York's report on what he calls "the new colonialism" in the Globe and Mail 5 May 09.

As startling as the facts is the source: IFPRI could hardly be more official, headquartered on Washington's K Street, headed by a conservative Australian economist, financed by governments and foundations, one of 15 CGIAR research centres stuffed with academic agricultural specialists, some of whom have supported GMOs. That such a source would sound the alarm of a massive threat to the global commons and food security speaks volumes. Many of the land grabs are European carbon fund investments, the new casino of the financiers. Africa is not the only target: see IFPRI map “Land Grabbing” by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries and Stephen Leahy "Global land rush" in IPS News 5 May 09 citing deals in Pakistan, Phillipines, Burma, China and Latin America. Grain has an even longer list (Nov 2008), backed by a blog of clippings.

The semi-official IISD, in Thirst for distant lands (May 2009, pp.11-18) warns that such leases constitute "property" under international trade law. A host country trying to stop subsequent environmental damage due to chemicals, loss of water or food supply, could face $million lawsuits from the "owner" similar to NAFTA chapter 11.

Here are some of the African deals reported by IFPRI (One hectare = 2.47 acres).

Lonrho (UK) rice lease: 25,000 hectares

Democratic Republic of Congo
China biofuel oil palm plantation: 2.8 million hectares

Jenat (Saudi) barley, wheat and livestock feed: 10,000 hectares

India $4-billion (U.S.): in flower-growing and sugar estates
Dubai World Trading Co. tea: 5,000 hectares
Flora EcoPower (Germany) biofuel: 13,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha, a biofuel crop: extent unknown
Saudi land lease: $100-million (U.S.)

Qatar fruit and vegetable lease: 20,000 hectares

Daewoo (South Korea) corn: 1.3 million hectares, cancelled when the scandal broke.
Varun International (India) rice: secret lease of 465,000 hectares

Djibouti land lease, extent unknown

Libya lease for rice: 100,000 hectares

China proposed $800-million (U.S.) for rice, cancelled after protests rose.
Skebab (Sweden) biofuel: 100,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha biofuel: extent unknown

Trans4mation Agric-tech Ltd. (UK): 10,000 hectares.
China (unknown company rice: 10,000 hectares

Egypt wheat land: 2 million tons a year
Jordan leases for livestock and crops: 25,000 hectares
Kuwait: a "giant" strategic partnership, details unknown
Qatar set up a joint holding company in agriculture
Saudi Arabia lease for wheat, vegetables, and livestock: 10,000 hectares
South Korea lease for wheat: 690,000 hectares
United Arab Emirates lease for food crops: 30,000 initially, seeking another 378,000 hectares

Saudi Arabia proposal for 500,000 hectares
China rice lease: 300 hectares
CAMS Group (UK) sweet sorghum biofuel land purchase: 45,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha biofuel: 5,500 hectares

China jatropha proposal: 2 million hectares.

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