‘Obscene’ agri investments
Philippine Daily Inquirer
"In fact, the situation in Cambodia (where about 45 percent of the country is estimated to have been “sold off” to foreign interests through various agricultural deals) might come off as worse, and far more obscene, than in the Philippines."Much appreciation for Ceres Doyo’s recent column on the land grab issue. (Inquirer, 7/30/09) Finally someone has written about it in a major broadsheet. I hope other journalists will follow suit. We have been flagging this issue to different groups and journalists in the Philippines since last year, pointing out to them a global report we compiled. This can be found at http://www. grain.org/briefings/?id=212. We also maintain a collaborative, open-publishing blog that keeps track of what’s happening: http://farmlandgrab.org/.
If I may just share a few thoughts:
The thing with this “agricolonialism” (as you aptly call it) is that it comes in the form of agricultural investments—which makes it seem “appealing” rather than repulsive to the ordinary public. Often negotiated between governments at the behest of private companies, the “deals” often talk of millions of dollars in investments without much regard for its consequences. A year ago, at the height of the rice crisis, the Bahraini government was negotiating with the Department of Foreign Affairs to lease about 40,000 hectares in the Philippines to grow rice for export back to Bahrain. Someone from the DFA reasoned that it’s a win-win deal since the country needs more investments so that it can afford to import the rice that it needs.
This trend is not an isolated case. In fact, the situation in Cambodia (where about 45 percent of the country is estimated to have been “sold off” to foreign interests through various agricultural deals) might come off as worse, and far more obscene, than in the Philippines. In Pakistan, some of the land deals directly compete with local food security. But if Asia has been hit bad, Africa is being hit worse. Indeed this “colonialism” is a global phenomenon. Just over a month ago, there was a private sector meeting in New York City focused on farmland investment, called “Global AgInvesting 2009: Commodities/Land/Infrastructure.”
In the meeting, most of the participants were convinced that they could take over cheap farmlands and, by converting them into modern, high-yield farms, they could increase their values and sell the lands at substantial profits. For some, this was their central business plan; for others, it was their exit strategy—but in all cases land values were sources of profit. They all seemed to think that the increasing demand for food was going to drive up farmland prices (and water prices!), and they wanted to cash in on this.
Certainly this trend has to be stopped.
Anyway, this is a long and winding way of saying thanks to Doyo for drawing attention to this issue. Keep up the good work.