The government is encouraging Indians to buy farmland in Latin American countries and grow crops there.
The external affairs ministry is preparing a policy framework to enable Indians to do so, maintaining that if the produce is shipped back home, it could help address the country’s food security problem, specially during years of drought.
In many South American countries there is abundance of fertile land, as well as cutting edge farm technology. There are no restrictions on foreigners owning land. In some places, land prices are lower than in parts of India.
“The cost per hectare is less than half the price of agricultural land in Punjab,” said R. Viswanathan, Indian ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Since the land acquisition will be by private parties only, the chances of such purchase becoming a political issue were remote, officials felt. “When government land is being leased or sold to another country, it becomes a political issue. Not in this case,” Viswanathan added.
Officials estimated that Brazil had around 30 million hectares on offer, Argentina, 32 million, and Uruguay 10 million, with lesser amounts in other countries.
Early investors include Sri Renuka Sugars, one of India’s largest sugar producers, which has signed an agreement with a Brazilian conglomerate Grupo Equipav to buy a controlling 50.79 per cent share in it, with which will come control over the company vast sugarcane fields.
As yet however, there is no financing available to buy land in these countries.Unlike in Africa, there is no competition with China here either. China does have around $ 24 billion invested in South America, but it does not encourage private ownership of land. It prefers that the state itself buy land, as it has done in many African countries, but in Latin America, that is not possible.