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Old 05-16-2009, 05:50 PM   #1
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Default Africa - Foreign countries buy vast tracts of land, food & biofuels

Massive African land grab to grow food
Wealthy countries buy chunks of continent for crops
Published May 14, 2009 by Gwynne Dyer in International
http://www.ffwdweekly.com/article/ne...row-food-3788/

In the past two years, various non-African countries — China, India, South Korea, Britain and the Arab Gulf states lead the pack — have been taking over huge tracts of farmland in Africa by lease or purchase, to produce food or biofuels for their own use. Critics call them "neo-colonialists,” but they will not be as successful as the old ones.

The scale of the land grab is truly impressive. In Sudan, South Korea has acquired 1.7 million acres of land to grow wheat. The United Arab Emirates, which already has 74,000 acres hectares in Sudan, is investing in another 959,000 acres to grow corn, alfalfa, wheat, potatoes and beans. In Tanzania, Saudi Arabia is seeking 1.2 million acres.

Even bigger chunks of land are being leased to produce biofuels. China has acquired 6.9 million acres in the Democratic Republic of Congo to create the world's largest oil-palm plantation (replacing all that messy rain-forest and useless wildlife with tidy lines of palm trees), and is negotiating for two million hectares in Zambia to grow jatropha.

British firms have secured big tracts of land in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania. Only rarely is there protest from local people. One striking exception is Madagascar, where the announcement of a 99-year contract to lease 3.2 million acres to South Korea's Daewoo corporation to grow corn helped to trigger the recent revolution. "Madagascar's land is neither for sale nor for rent," said the new leader, Andry Rajoelina, who cancelled the deal.

After the revolution, it turned out that another 1.1 million acres of land in Madagascar had been leased to an Indian company, Varun International, to grow rice for consumption in India. That deal is also being cancelled by the new government — but elsewhere, the acquisition of huge tracts of African land by Asian and European governments and companies goes ahead almost unopposed.
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