Saw this frightening but sadly unsurprising in the Independent when I followed a link from “bls”:
“The government of President Ravalomanana became the first in the world to be toppled because of what the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization recently described as ‘landgrabbing’. The Daewoo deal is only one of more than 100 land deals which have, over the past 12 months, seen massive tracts of cultivable farmland across the globe bought up by wealthy countries and international corporations. The phenomenon is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe’s farmland targeted in just the past six months.
To understand the impotent fury that provokes in impoverished farmers, consider the reaction if something similar happened in Britain. The international development policy consultant Mark Weston has a vivid image to help: ‘Imagine if China, following a brief negotiation with a British government desperate for foreign cash after the collapse of the economy, bought up the whole of Wales, replaced most of its inhabitants with Chinese workers, turned the entire country into an enormous rice field, and sent all the rice produced there for the next 99 years back to China,’ he suggests.
‘Imagine that neither the evicted Welsh nor the rest of the British public knew what they were getting in return for this, having to content themselves with vague promises that the new landlords would upgrade a few ports and roads and create jobs for local people.
‘Then, imagine that, after a few years – and bearing in mind that recession and the plummeting pound have already made it difficult for Britain to buy food from abroad – an oil-price spike or an environmental disaster in one of the world’s big grain-producing nations drives global food prices sharply upwards, and beyond the reach of many Britons. While the Chinese next door in Wales continue sending rice back to China, the starving British look helplessly on, ruing the day their government sold off half their arable land. Some of them plot the violent recapture of the Welsh valleys.’
Change the place names to Africa and the scenario is much less far-fetched. It is happening already, which is why many, including Jacques Diouf, head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has warned that the world may be slipping into a ‘neo-colonial’ system. Even that great champion of the free market, the FT, described the Daewoo deal as ‘rapacious’ and warned it is but the most ‘brazen example of a wider phenomenon’ as rich nations seek to buy up the natural resources of poor countries”
Read the full article here.