The World Today | November 2009 | exceprt only
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Andrew Jarvis, Chatham House
The lack of confidence in global markets has driven some countries to push ahead with alternative food security strategies built around direct investment and bilateral relationships.
State-backed investments in foreign land for food production have attracted considerable attention over the past year.
The most prominent buyers have been Gulf states. Deals have been announced between various Middle Eastern companies and investment funds, and counterparties in Africa, South and South-East Asia. These have prompted concerns that include the impacts on existing land users, the economic benefit to the supplying country and broader issues of food sovereignty.
Japan is leading an international effort to define a new set of 'investor principles' to govern such deals. These efforts are gaining support but will need to involve investors, many of whom are far removed from the donors, global banks and multinational corporations that are used to working with such initiatives.While contracts like these raise important questions, they are only part of a much broader picture of land investment for food, biofuels and industrial crops. Even individual investors now have numerous investment options, from large funds with strategies to acquire and lease land, to small start-ups with ambitious business plans to release the latent productive potential of Mozambique or the Ukraine. And land continues to be a currency of political patronage in places where property rights accrue more easily to the rich than the poor.