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Land grabs and fragile food systems: The role of globalization

Land grabs and fragile food systems: The role of globalization

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Published by N R Dewi Nurmayani
IATP have consistently argued that trade agreements need to respect and promote human rights, not drive a process of globalisation that privileges commercial interests and pushes public interests aside. This paper concludes that the globalisation enshrined in the free trade and investment agreements of the 1990s and 2000s have led to yet another manifestation of commercial interests trampling human rights - namely land grabs.

This paper is specifically focuses on two forces that IATP argue have contributed significantly to the problem: First, globalisation—more specifically, the deregulation of trade and foreign investment laws, which has greatly eased cross-border capital flows, relaxed the limits on foreign land ownership, and opened markets to agricultural imports. And second, the failures of the international trading system during the food price crisis of 2007-08, which eroded the confidence of food import–dependent countries in international markets as a reliable source of food and fed both speculative investment and investment in actual food production. This loss of confidence was compounded by climate change and the resulting destabilisation of weather patterns, which has resulted in less predictable agricultural production.
Whilst investment in agriculture is welcomed the impact of land grabs has been overwhelmingly negative. They are associated with weak institutional capacity (and sometimes corruption) in the recipient country governments, as well as authoritarian governments in the investors’ home countries, making it hard to bring pressure there for better practices. The communities whose land is leased or bought are not adequately protected.

Four linked policy shifts to create a more stable and transparent international food system are needed:

- reformed trade rules that ensure export measures are subject to transparency and predictability requirements and that allow all countries policy space for food security policies

- publicly-managed grain reserves to dampen the effects of supply shocks

- readily accessible funding for the poorest food importers, which would be triggered automatically when prices increase sharply in international markets

- the development of strong national and international laws to govern investment in land, respecting the principles and guidelines set out in the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure.
IATP have consistently argued that trade agreements need to respect and promote human rights, not drive a process of globalisation that privileges commercial interests and pushes public interests aside. This paper concludes that the globalisation enshrined in the free trade and investment agreements of the 1990s and 2000s have led to yet another manifestation of commercial interests trampling human rights - namely land grabs.

This paper is specifically focuses on two forces that IATP argue have contributed significantly to the problem: First, globalisation—more specifically, the deregulation of trade and foreign investment laws, which has greatly eased cross-border capital flows, relaxed the limits on foreign land ownership, and opened markets to agricultural imports. And second, the failures of the international trading system during the food price crisis of 2007-08, which eroded the confidence of food import–dependent countries in international markets as a reliable source of food and fed both speculative investment and investment in actual food production. This loss of confidence was compounded by climate change and the resulting destabilisation of weather patterns, which has resulted in less predictable agricultural production.
Whilst investment in agriculture is welcomed the impact of land grabs has been overwhelmingly negative. They are associated with weak institutional capacity (and sometimes corruption) in the recipient country governments, as well as authoritarian governments in the investors’ home countries, making it hard to bring pressure there for better practices. The communities whose land is leased or bought are not adequately protected.

Four linked policy shifts to create a more stable and transparent international food system are needed:

- reformed trade rules that ensure export measures are subject to transparency and predictability requirements and that allow all countries policy space for food security policies

- publicly-managed grain reserves to dampen the effects of supply shocks

- readily accessible funding for the poorest food importers, which would be triggered automatically when prices increase sharply in international markets

- the development of strong national and international laws to govern investment in land, respecting the principles and guidelines set out in the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure.

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Published by: N R Dewi Nurmayani on May 05, 2013
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Land Grabsand FragileFood Systems
The Role of Globalization
By Sophia Murphy
Institute or Agriculture and Trade Policy
February 2013
INSTITUTE
FOR
AGRICULTURE
AND
TRADE POLICY
 
 Land Grabs and Fragile Food Systems: The Role of Globalization
By Sophia MurphyAcknowledgements:Carin Smaller, Duncan Green, Tim Wise, Phil McMichael, Daniel de la Torre Ugarte and Raj PatelKaren Hansen Kuhn and Ben LillistonPublished February 2013© 2013 IATP. All rights reserved.The Institute or Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globallyat the intersection o policy and practice to ensure air and sustainable ood, arm and trade systems.More at iatp.org
 
LAND GRABS AND FRAGILE FOOD SYSTEMS: THE ROLE OF GLOBALIZATION 3
Executive Summary
IATP has worked on trade and agriculture or more than25 years. In all that time, we have consistently argued that trade agreements need to respect and promote human rights,not drive a process o globalization that privileges commer-cial interests and pushes public interests aside. This paperconcludes that the globalization enshrined in the ree tradeand investment agreements o the 1990s and 2000s have ledto yet another maniestation o commercial interests tram-pling human rights: land grabs.“Land grabs” is a term coined by the media to describe large-scale purchases or leases o agricultural or orest land onterms that do not serve those already living on the land. Thereis a large and growing body o literature—academic and morepopular—on land grabs. This paper is specically ocusedon two orces that we argue have contributed signicantlyto the problem: First, globalization—more specically, thederegulation o trade and oreign investment laws, which hasgreatly eased cross-border capital fows, relaxed the limitson oreign land ownership, and opened markets to agricul-tural imports. And second, the ailures o the internationaltrading system during the ood price crisis o 2007-08, whicheroded the condence o ood import–dependent countriesin international markets as a reliable source o ood and edboth speculative investment and investment in actual oodproduction.This loss o condence is compounded by climate change andthe resulting destabilization o weather patterns, which hasresulted in less predictable agricultural production. Between1995 and 2005, 90 percent o natural disasters were weatherrelated (foods and droughts as opposed to earthquakes andvolcanoes). Climate change is making domestic ood suppliesless certain and aecting major producers or export, too. TheUnited States lost 40 percent o a record large number o acresplanted with maize to drought in 2012.That loss o condence has driven some o the richer net-oodimporters—countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—toinvest in growing ood abroad or import to their domesticmarkets. These countries are one o the groups heavily repre-sented among oreign land investors.The demand or ood rom richer countries coupled with thepotential to grow more ood elsewhere is not o itsel a badthing. Agriculture has been starved o investment or at least 20 years in developing countries, and increasing that invest-ment has already started to yield dividends in higher output.But land grabs, as the label implies, have to date been over-whelmingly negative. They are associated with weak insti-tutional capacity (and sometimes corruption) in the recipient country governments, as well as authoritarian governmentsin the investors’ home countries, making it hard to bringpressure there or better practices. The communities whoseland is leased or bought are not adequately protected.Four linked policy shits to create a more stable and trans-parent international ood system are needed: reormed traderules that ensure export measures are subject to transpar-ency and predictability requirements and that allow all coun-tries policy space or ood security policies; publicly-managedgrain reserves to dampen the eects o supply shocks; readilyaccessible unding or the poorest ood importers, whichwould be triggered automatically when prices increasesharply in international markets; and, the development o strong national and international laws to govern investment in land, respecting the principles and guidelines set out in theVoluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure. Tanzania’s recentlyannounced limits on how much land oreign and domesticinvestors can lease is a hopeul example o a national govern-ment taking the initiative to get serious about regulation.
1
1. Land grabs: Neo-colonialismor something more?
“The size o land afected by land acquisitionagreements signed between 2008 and 2009 was morethan ten times what it had been in previous annualaverages.” (Oxam, Sleeping Lions, p.8)
“Land grabs” is a term coined by the media to describelarge-scale purchases or leases o agricultural or orest landon terms that do not serve those already living on the land.Land grabs are maniest in a huge increase in oreign (anddomestic) investment in land, concentrated in some o theworld’s poorest—and hungriest—countries. Some o thedrivers behind land grabs predate the global ood price crisis,such as the rise o the biouel industry rom approximately2004. But the ood price crisis sent investments into over-drive. While the actual numbers are opaque and disputed(how many acres? how much money?), in part because somekinds o investment are over-counted while others are under-counted, no one argues that the scale o land investment ishuge and still growing.
2
1. See the story at http://allarica.com/stories/201212200011.html2. One o the most comprehensive sources o up-to-date numbers can be ound here, on-line at the Land Matrix portal.

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