In March it was reported that British-based land-owners and companies continue to buy land in eastern Europe. Velcourt, which manages 50,400 hectares of arable and dairy farms in the UK for 81 clients (10 businesses and 5,000 cows) has set up a joint-venture with Mintridge International, a farmland acquisition company focused on Poland and Romania. Hungary banned sale of agricultural land to foreigners in 2011 but, after EU pressure, modified this in 2013 to a severe restriction.
Jadwiga Lopata writes that although officially foreigners cannot buy land in Poland until May 2016, Polish farmland is being sold-off to foreign multinational corporations. Read more here. The body responsible for the management of public land, the Agricultural Property Agency, has recently started to dissolve land-lease contracts with farmers in the West Pomerania Province in order to sell off land on a large scale.
This land is being bought by foreign companies of mainly Dutch, Danish, German and English origin for the establishment of large industrial farms, for the cultivation and sale of GMO crops, and for purely speculative purposes as land prices are expected to rise in the build up to the liberalisation of the land market in 2016. The foreign companies make use of “substitute” or fake buyers to acquire farmland.
Undeterred by the fate of their investments in Russian land, Velcourt and Mintridge plan to tap into resurgent demand for farming investment, boosted by rising food prices, that cannot be met by opportunities in Britain because, as Velcourt chief executive James Townshend said: “Less than 0.5% of UK farmland is sold in any one year, so opportunities are very limited and yields are only 1% – 2%.” Others investing in such land deals are MNCs, hedge funds, venture capitalists and even universities.
Cultivable land in India is lost to urbanisation, industry and infrastructure projects . . .
The EconomicTimes notes the Census Department’s report that the area under urban use jumped by 24,000 sq km during the (last ten years). Much of this would have been at the expense of rural land. “As cities grow, the agricultural area around them comes down,” says a senior official of the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the press.
Therefore, Devinder Sharma reports, India is buying land abroad:
”Land Matrix, a global land monitoring initiative that tracks land dealings worldwide, placed India among the top 10 countries that have acquired large tracts of land abroad, primarily for agriculture, in Africa and Asia. The country ranks eighth, next to China, in the list which has US, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and UK among the top buyers”.
“At the same time, companies from UK, US, Austria and Thailand have concluded 36 deals to buy farm land in India in the States of Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Seven of these deals have already been completed allowing 13,105 hectares to be acquired. As I said somewhere, every second an area equivalent to that of a football ground (0.72 hectares) is being acquired in the majority world.
“Imagine, wherever you live being surrounded by fenced land purchased by foreign companies. Imagine the flag of the country from which the company hails from is fluttering in your neighbourhood – maybe more than one flag. Gradually most of us will find ourselves living in no man’s land surrounded by international borders on all sides.
“The country seems to be up for grabs. No wonder, soon after passing the new land acquisition law that makes it easier for companies to acquire land, Rural development Minister Jairam Ramesh had said: ‘We will not need land acquisition law after 20 years’. So true, isn’t it? After all, there would be no land left to be acquired by then!
”The land sharks are scanning each and every nook of the world to lay hands upon whatever piece of land they can . . . It has grave human rights implications, and will impact on global food security. In other words, it has all the makings of a tremendous people’s revolt in the years to come”.
Read Sharma’s article in Ground Reality.