Farmland buy-ups and political instability

A short post because I’m heading out to the Elk Point Farmers Market in a few minutes, but this article, shared by a friend on Facebook, caught my eye.

Remember that discussion about the newest and scariest speculation in farmland?  As predicted, it IS causing political instability–especially when it’s a multinational buying up farmland in another country where food is already too scarce or too expensive for the local populace.  Take Madagascar as an example:

The urban poor were angry at the price of food, which had been high since the massive rise in global prices of wheat and rice the year before. Food-price rises hit the poor worse than the rest of us because they spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. But what whipped them into action was news of a deal the government had recently signed with a giant Korean multinational, Daewoo, leasing 1.3 million hectares of farmland – an area almost half the size of Belgium and about half of all arable land on the island – to the foreign company for 99 years. Daewoo had announced plans to grow maize and palm oil there – and send all the harvests back to South Korea.

Terms of the deal had not originally been made public. But then the news leaked, via the Financial Times in London, that the firm had paid nothing for the lease. Daewoo had promised to improve the island’s infrastructure in support of its investment. “We will provide jobs for them by farming it, which is good for Madagascar,” a Daewoo spokesman said. But the direct cash benefit to Madagascar would be zero – in a country which can barely produce enough food to feed itself: nearly half of the island’s children under the age of five are malnourished. [Paul Vallely. “Wish You Weren’t Here: The Devastating Effects of the New Colonialists.” Independent/UK 10 August 2009]

I hate to be a doomsayer, but the article goes on to report that deals like this are going on all over the world–with large investors–multinationals and governments–buying up land in impoverished areas in countries Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil, and Russia. Some of the land is for food farming; some is for fuel-farming.

Peak oil? How about “Peak Food”?


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