Stephen Marks looks at the latest rush by China and countries in the middle east to sign lease agreements in poor countries for agricultural production, and what this trend means in terms of food security and access to arable land for local populations.
The Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, returned from a visit to Qatar on Monday. His spokesman said the request for land in the Tana River delta, south of Lamu, was being seriously considered. “Nothing comes for free. If you want people to invest in your country then you have to make concessions,” the spokesman said.
Qatar has asked Kenya to lease it 40,000 hectares of land to grow crops as part of a proposed package that would also see the Gulf state fund a new £2.4bn port on the popular tourist island of Lamu off the east African country.
Cambodia is in talks with several Asian and Middle Eastern governments to receive as much as $3bn in agricultural investment in return for millions of hectares in land concessions, according to a senior government official.
South Korea's Daewoo Logistics will plant corn in Madagascar, a company official said on Tuesday, with a long-term aim to replace more than half the corn it currently imports from mostly the United States.
The deputy leader of the Democratic Left Party (DSP) Turkey has stated that Turkey possesses some great advantages in agriculture, despite the major problems that remain in place in the sector, but emphasized that it is a mistake to sell agricultural land to foreigners.
Once committed largely to perceived safe-haven investments in the United States, Gulf nations are now looking to send their petrodollar surpluses towards a more exotic global destination: Southeast Asian farmland.