Corporate Agriculture In Pakistan

Courtesy of Desertification, an interesting summary of the politics of perceived agricultural “land grabs” in Pakistan.  As the report notes:

“…One of the lingering effects of the food price crisis of 2007–08 on the world food system is the proliferating acquisition of farmland in developing countries by other countries seeking to ensure their food supplies. Increased pressures on natural resources, water scarcity, and export restrictions imposed by major producers when food prices were high, and growing distrust in the functioning of regional and global markets have pushed countries short in land and water to find alternative means of producing food. These land acquisitions have the potential to inject much-needed investment into agriculture and rural areas in poor developing countries, but they also raise concerns about the impacts on poor local people, who risk losing access to and control over land on which they depend on. It is crucial to ensure that these land deals, and the environment within which they take place, are designed in ways that will reduce the threats and facilitate the opportunities for all parties involved.

Agriculture is backbone of Pakistan’s economy contributing 25% of GDP, employing 47% of labour force, contributing 49% to industrial production and accounting for 67% of export earning. Indeed, it has much more potential for improvement when compared to many other countries including some of our immediate neighbors. But unfortunately our Government has now only one solution Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF).

The Government claims that Corporate Agriculture Farming will enhance efficiency of production. This is simply not possible—unless efficiency means the rapaciously high profits that accrue exclusively to big investors and monopolists. It takes only five units of inputs to produce 100 units of produce through multi-cropped traditional organic methods, while it takes 300 units through chemical monoculture to produce the same 100 units of crops. How is that efficient?

According to an Abu Dhabi newspaper, some UAE firms have acquired about 16,187 hectares of land in Pakistan’s Balochistan province for an estimated $40 million to produce food for their population back home. A delegation of their officials was in Pakistan in October for talks on the deal and had a meeting with Chief Minister Aslam Raisani. The delegation also met Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to explore possible purchase of about 12,140 hectares in Shikarpur, Larkana, Sukker, Thatta & Badin. The UAE imports about 85 per cent of its food from abroad at an estimated cost of $2.9 billion.

A Bahrain company, Market Access Promotion (MAP) Services Group, says it will develop ten model dairy and livestock farms in Pakistan during in 2008–10. A Qatari firm is reportedly eyeing the acquisition of Kollurkar farm in Punjab but Pakistan Farmers Forum says that the deal if inked may dislocate 25,000 villages.
The Saudi Fund for Development is creating a $566m special investment vehicle for buying land abroad for producing rice and wheat for the country. The first investment will be made in Sudan, to be followed in Turkey and Pakistan. The Al Rabie Group is interested in buying land in Pakistan to develop dairy industry there and also to develop exports of tomato paste, citrus pulp and packed beans for the Saudi market.

In June, the UAE government was in bilateral talks with Islamabad for purchase of $400-500m worth of farmland of 100,000–200,000 acres in large holdings in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Details are being finalized. But UAE investors want to purchase land directly in Pakistan and also want to get the lands exempted from any export restriction on the food produced there. Abraaj Capital acquired some 800,000 acres of “barren” farmland last year to produce rice and wheat for export to UAE.

Critics say that by seeking to solve their food shortage problem in this way, the rich emerging economies may succeed in producing enough quantity for their populations but may in the long-term be exporting their food insecurity to other nations. For, many local communities will be evicted to make way for the foreign takeover.

Until the mid-20th century, many European countries grew rich on the resources of their colonies. Now, the emerging economies rich in cash but facing food insecurity are acquiring vast tracts of agricultural land in developing and poorer nations, to produce food for their populations. Pakistan is among the countries where land is being acquired for the purpose.

Foreign investment can provide key resources for agriculture, including development of needed infrastructure and expansion of livelihood options for local people. If large-scale land acquisitions cause land expropriation or unsustainable use, however, foreign investments in agricultural land can become politically unacceptable. It is therefore in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved ensuring that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.

In Pakistan landless peasants are struggling for their rights for secure access to land through an agrarian reforms process. Previous land reforms were not able to bring peasants into mainstream development process. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), bound its members (including Pakistan) to take solid steps for sustainable land management and empower the stakeholders including peasants, women, civil society and landless farmers, through an enabling legal environment. The present government, by its very constitution is committed to redistribute land among the landless. The need of time is that instead of going for policies like CAF, government must trust, rely and empower our own people and provide them facilities like electricity, water and other farm infrastructure through Agriculture Development Bank (ADB), micro credit banks or cooperative banks.

Civil society, particularly peasant right movements see CAF with much skepticism as they believe that this will dislocate peasants, cause serious threat to their food security, and deprive them with water and other resources. Environment is another concern as deep tube well technologies, pesticides and chemical fertilizers will further deteriorate the environment.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 8th, 2009 at 3:05 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. 

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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 and frontier investment markets at