Study reports on food “land grabbing”

High food prices have led to a land-buying spree in developing countries, particularly in Africa, by other nations and private investors seeking to assure their own food supplies, Reuters reported, quoting the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRP). The institute said 15 million to 20 million hectares of farmland in poor nations were sold since 2006, or were under negotiation for sale to foreign entities.

The spate of land purchases “is truly a consequence” of the sharp increase in food prices in 2007 and 2008, and of fears that stockpiles would run short, said Joachim von Braun, director general of the Washington-based think tank. Because relatively small amounts of land go on sale each year, von Braun added, the purchases increased local land prices.

In a report about the “land grabbing,” IFPRI listed more than four dozen deals – some in Asia, most in Africa. Persian Gulf states and other food-importing countries, rich in capital but with land and water constraints, are at the forefront of these investments in foreign farmland, the report said. “In addition, countries with large populations and food security concerns such as China, South Korea and India are seeking opportunities to produce food overseas.”

The IFPRI recommended “free, prior and informed consent” as the standard in any land deal-making, with “particular efforts” toward fair treatment of people who have traditional access to land but do not own it. The World Bank has said it will publish guidelines to help investors and countries make mutually beneficial deals.

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