Selling mangoes in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan has offered 6mn acres of its agricultural land to resourceful countries and multinational companies (MNCs) for corporate farming, corporate sources have said.
Despite serious concern of farmers’ community and civil society, the previous government had approved the Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) policy while the current government has furthered the agenda, a leading exporter of fresh produce has said.
“Millions of hectares have been leased or sold so far for corporate farming to foreign entities,” chief executive of the Harvest Trading Ahmad Jawad said.
“The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which imports 85% of its food, purchased 324,000 hectares of farmland in Punjab, Baluchistan and Sindh in June 2008. Besides, some private companies of UAE have also expressed interest in investing directly in corporate farming,” he said. He used the term ‘land grabbing’ for the action of acquiring huge swaths of land in poor counties with weak regulatory infrastructure and almost no accountability.
Land grabbing is not a problem of Pakistan alone, but it is also being carried out in other parts of the world, particularly in the developing countries, by investors from rich nations, he said.
“Pakistan has started allotting vast areas of land in Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan to countries with larger populations for corporate farming, which would destroy local agriculture and also lead the country towards severe food insecurity, resulting in increased poverty,” Jawad said.
The Corporate Farming Ordinance (CFO) was passed in 2001, under which listed corporations could lease land in the country for 99 years, broken into two periods of 50 years and 49 years.
Jawad said that unstable food grain markets, rising prices and deepening food insecurity were the outcomes of land grabbing in Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. Pakistan, Uganda, Brazil, Cambodia and Sudan are among the most favoured countries by international land grabbers who are also behind corporate farming.
Renowned experts, civil society leaders and farmers’ representatives have termed corporate farming in Pakistan against national interests as well as the interest of small growers and have demanded from government to immediately stop leasing of land to foreign countries under the name of corporate farming.
Supporters of corporate farming say that it would bring greater investment, especially development of agricultural infrastructure, create more jobs in the rural areas and contribute to the country’s economy. It would probably be better than begging before the ‘Friends of Pakistan’ or other donors.
Pakistan agriculture is under pressure from the large corporations. The real problem is that the investors from the rich countries want access to poor countries’ resources, markets, and labour forces at the lowest possible price.
The Harvest Tradings CEO said that a long-term agriculture policy must be developed that focuses on the rights of small farmers, the impact of climate change, ensuring registration of small farmers and recognising the role of women as farmers.
Jawad said that corporate farming in Pakistan would lead to food insecurity, hunger and poverty, and convert the country from net food exporter to food importer, alarming signs of which have already become visible.