One trend that has been below the radar of discussion on the media nowadays in land grab, mostly made by multinational, privately-owned corporations. They do not simply buy a small plot of land; they do it in millions of hectares, oftentimes buying up nearly the entire arable land of a nation, especially those of Third World countries in Asia and Africa.
For Africa, this phenomenon is particularly gaining some hard truth for much of the populace: despite under the promise of ‘enriching the population, triggering high economic growth’, governments are oftentimes powerless in the face of cash-flooded foreign investors. Some even begin to signal that ‘a new Scramble-for-Africa’ has begun, this time no longer in colonies, but in terms of massive land-leasing deals towards corporate behemoths, frequently below the supposed prices they pay.
Read the full article in Der Spiegel to find out more.
The most spectacular deals are not being made by private investors, however, but by governments and the funds and conglomerates they promote:
- The Sudanese government has leased 1.5 million hectares of prime farmland to the Gulf States, Egypt and South Korea for 99 years. Paradoxically, Sudan is also the world’s largest recipient of foreign aid, with 5.6 million of its citizens dependent on food deliveries.
- Kuwait has leased 130,000 hectares of rice fields in Cambodia.
- Egypt plans to grow wheat and corn on 840,000 hectares in Uganda.
- The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has offered to lease 10 million hectares to the South Africans.
Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest and most aggressive buyers of land. This spring, the king attended a ceremony where he took delivery of the first export rice harvest, produced exclusively for the kingdom in hunger-stricken Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia spends $800 million a year promoting foreign companies that cultivate “strategic field crops” like rice, wheat, barley and corn, which it then imports. Ironically, the country was the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter in the 1990s. But water is scarce and the desert nation aims to preserve its reserves. Exporting food also means exporting water.