Japanese Efforts to Prevent Global “Farmland Grabbing”

Via The Financial Times, a report on Japan’s efforts to spearhead a drive at the Group of Eight summit to prevent “farmland grabbing” in developing countries and encourage responsible investing in agriculture.  As the article notes:

African land
African land is being given away almost for nothing

“…The move shows growing fears among leading nations that rich countries such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea, which are not self-sufficient in food production, are investing in overseas land, particularly in Africa, to boost their food security. Two UN agencies said African countries were giving away vast tracts of farmland to other countries and investors almost free of charge, with the only benefits consisting of vague promises of jobs and infrastructure, the Financial Times revealed yesterday.

Tokyo’s initiative, which would include a set of principles for investment, aims “to harmonise and maximise the interests of both host countries and investors”, in order to promote greater investment in agriculture, Japan’s foreign ministry said.

While the initiative would also draw up a flexible methodology for monitoring the adherence of members to the principles, the main objective is to promote, not discourage, investment in agriculture, according to Tamaki Tsukada, director of the economic security division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The objective is to increase global food production,” he told the FT.

The trend to invest in overseas farmland is contentious, with some saying it represents a “neo-colonial” race to secure water and fertile soil with little benefit to local populations, while others say the investments can boost economic growth and provide jobs in poor countries where farmland and water are abundant.

Although the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Bank and the African Union are drawing up guidelines, agriculture officials say a G8-backed plan would have more force. The fact the issue would be discussed at the G8 summit showed concern about current investments.

Japan will propose the initiative at the G8 summit in l’Aquila, Italy, in July, where food security will be a top issue. The G8 ministers of agriculture, at their first ever meeting last month, already warned on their communiqué that “attention should be given to the leasing and purchase of agricultural land in developing countries, to ensure that local and traditional land use is respected.”

Joachim von Braun, head of the International Food Research Policy Institute, a Washington-based think- tank funded by governments, said the US was likely to be supportive of Japan’s initiative as long as such guidelines were not restrictive. “This is encouraging,” he said. “Japan can best provide leadership among the G8 nations on this issue because it understands the potential of small farm agriculture.”

The principles Japan is proposing would call for greater transparency in investment deals, respect for existing land rights, sharing benefits with locals and environmental sustainability.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 6:10 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at www.waterpolitics.com and frontier investment markets at www.wildcatsandblacksheep.com.