Thursday, June 4, 2009

Someone's Paying Attention

Just not in the way you might hope. When it comes to issues of food security, countries around the world are buying up huge tracts of farmland in the Third World in order to ensure their own food security. As global food production suffers, these investments in offshore land stand to become very profitable, and then essential. Just not to the country where the food is grown.
There's a new website dedicated to tracking this trend;

Reuters | Wednesday June 3 2009

By Bate Felix

BRUSSELS, June 3 (Reuters) - The European Union is concerned by the trend of foreign investors and countries acquiring large tracts of farmland in developing countries to guarantee their own food security, a senior EU official said on Wednesday.


“The poorest countries are selling commodities, they are exporting migrants and now they are selling their land from which they will not take any kind of benefit in terms of food or whatever,” Manservisi added.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, China and South Korea are looking to buy farmland beyond their borders after sharp food price hikes in 2008 highlighted a need for greater food security.

Gulf Daily News | Wednesday, June 03, 2009


After suffering losses on investments in firms such as Citigroup, Gulf sovereign wealth funds are pumping billions of dollars into local industries such as banks and governments are boosting spending to avert an economic slowdown.

Gulf countries, mainly reliant on food imports, have also increased efforts over the last year to buy land in developing nations from Pakistan to the Philippines and Ethiopia, to help cater for a growing population.

The idea makes sense--after all, food security is one of the more important issues in a nation's life. No government is, after all, more than three days away from a revolution--just stop the food from getting to the people. But this idea of doing it on the backs of other countries is the logical outgrowth of neo-liberal globalization. It assumes, for a start, that contracts will remain valid in a worsening environment, that shipping will remain possible in a post-peak oil world, and that there will always be loads of money to pay for it all and generate the needed increases in capital. Oh, and that starving people won't just kill and eat the rich.

Food security isn't that hard, really. We just can't live the way we do now and expect it to magically appear. All things being equal, the average family of four can obtain food security on about 2 hectares or 5 acres (the classic book on the subject is called Five Acres and Independence by Maurice Grenville Kains), but I realize that not everyone wants to be responsible for their own food security and all things are not equal. I'm of the opinion that in order to boost Canadian food security, all farming income derived from 65 hectares (160 acres ~½ mile square) should be tax-free as long as you are living on the farm. This would make small farms much more economic to operate and, I suspect, would put a lot of people onto farms in order to take advantage of the tax break.

But the current practice of hydrocarbon-intensive production and increasingly non-secure transportation of food around the world in clearly unsustainable. I suspect that before much longer, we''ll be back to Clemantine or Mandarin oranges only at Winter Soslstice and not the year 'round fruit they seem to be currently. And this will be true for a lot of foods. After all, food security is about eating, not about eating anything you want when you want it.

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