China has said it will not join the growing trend of outsourcing food production by investing in overseas farmland, particularly in Africa, expressing doubts that such deals could improve its food security.
The International Finance Corporation, the World Bank's private sector lending arm, will nearly double its investment in agribusiness in Africa to $200 million during the 2009 fiscal year, a senior official said.
Growing interest from Asia and Middle East countries to lease agricultural land in Africa "is not a bad thing" but must be handled properly and in a transparent way, a top World Bank official said on Thursday.
The chief of the International Finance Corporation, Lars Thunell, has been holding talks with Saudi finance minister Ibrahim Al-Assa on corporation in areas of joint 'external agricultural investments'.
The International Financial Corp, the World Bank’s private-sector lender, said on Thursday it will invest $75 million in a new agribusiness fund to increase global food supplies. IFC said it had joined forces with Altima Partners, which manages the $625 million Altima One World Agricultural Fund, to create a fund to invest in farming operations and agricultural land in emerging market countries.
As the vicious food price crisis deepens, transnational companies are moving into southern countries on a huge scale and starting to capture millions of hectares of land in order to bring agricultural production further under their control for industrial agrofuel and food production for the international market. Millions of peasants will be pushed out of food production, adding to the hungry in the rural areas and the slums of the big cities. The few that remain will work under full control of the transnational companies as workers or contract farmers.
Gulf governments, entrepreneurs and sovereign wealth funds have spent vast sums buying or leasing farmland across Asia and Africa to try to secure cheaper imports and keep supermarket prices low. But the World Bank and UN want them to put more money into development aid.
Alarmed by exporting countries’ trade restrictions, importing countries have realised that their dependence on the international food market makes them vulnerable not only to an abrupt surge in prices but, more crucially, to an interruption in supplies.