Global Food Shortage: Nations rush to lease or buy third world agricultural land as backup

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Dec 282009
 

“Grain prices soared to record levels last year (2008), causing riots and hoarding in some countries, and sparking a move to import-dependent rich countries to secure farmland in mainly poorer regions to ease food security.”

“According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, an arm of the UN, the global food Every nation will be affected by food shortages as we add 2 billion more people to this planet. More people, less food. Simple.crisis is worsening. In 2009, over 1 billion people were undernourished globally, up from 873 million in 2004-2006; the accelerating growth and urbanisation of the world’s population, which is predominately taking place in the developing world, is increasing the pressure on food resources and provoking food security fears…Over the past 12 months, the US, Japan, Saudi Arabia and others have invested in millions of hectares of farmland in struggling nations like Indonesia and Sudan.” Read more.

Now that the world economy is picking up steam, it’s only a matter of time, perhaps three to four decades, before the world will be confronted with a perfect storm of resource shortages. A shortage of of food is already a reality for a large segment of the world’s population. That will grow as large numbers of people in China, India, Brazil and other nations become more affluent and are able to buy cars, homes, and acquire a better diet, including meat, which requires much more water and fertilizer to grow the grain that feeds the livestock. Petroleum is a key ingredient in the manufacture of fertilizer and over 4,000 other products, including medicine. There are no substitutes.

We are adding over 2 billion more people to the planet in the next 40 years. Contrary to what corporate types say, you cannot grow your business forever when the world and its resources are finite.

The 2008 “bubble in food prices, driven by financial speculators, biofuels and compounded when some countries halted food exports to ensure their own supplies-led to pain for nations dependent on imports.

“Alarm bells rang, with many governments alerted to what might lie ahead as climate change and soil destruction reduce the supply of food on the world market. The result, a huge international land grab…

“Although governments are encouraging the trend, the acquisitions are generally made by the private sector. Along with agribusiness, corporations and food traders, investment banks and private equity funds have been jumping on board, seeing land as a safe haven from the financial storm.”

However, the primary reason for this interest in agiculture is the fact that we are heading for a future of food in short supply, continuing price hikes and the resulting upheavals, so food-importing nations are looking for ways to secure food for their citizens.

The food that these corporations produce on factory farms in these foreign countries, for the most part, will be exported to wealthier nations. You can be sure that when the crisis arrives, the food will be destined for their home country. And they will need an army to protect that food.

Some of these overseas corporate farms operate in areas where the natives don’t have enough to eat:

“In Sudan, the Darfur crisis has left the World Food Programme struggling to feed 5.6 million refugees – suggesting the country might not be the ideal place to grow food for foreigners. Yet this week (December 2009) the Sudanese minister for investment, Refugees driven from Sudan by Muslim jihadists. Women and children are taken as slaves and converted to Islam. Or they are killed.Salman Suliman Alsafi, announced that he expected an investment of $6 to $7 billion in the country in 2010, highlighting agriculture as being the chief area of interest. Even assuming the best of intentions, it seems churlish to expect foreign corporations to serve two masters equally; were they to do so, there would be over-fertilisation and deforestation of the farmland that could cause long-term damage, but it seems more likely they would concentrate on more profitable markets in the wealthier nations.

“If there is a real world shortage of food in the future-and there may well be-it is difficult to imagine that a wealthy nation, like Saudi Arabia, that has leased or bought land in a poor country in Africa, such as Sudan, will put the needs of the local population before the food needs of its own population in the case of emergency…” (farmlandgrab.org)

China is making large investments in foreign agricultural land as their agriculture output continues downward. According to the University of Leeds, “global grain markets are facing breaking point.”

“Experts predict that if China’s recent urbanisation trends continue, and the country imports just 5% more of its grain, the entire world’s grain export would be swallowed whole. The knock-on effect on the food supply-and on prices-to developing nations could be huge.

India, China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other Arab states have been called “food pirates” because they “use African land to grow crops such as rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils for domestic markets.

Sidique Wai, president of New York-based United African Congress said that “We sit on gold and yet we are begging for gold.” Dr. Shelby F. Lewis noted that “some African nations leasing farmland are receiving international food aid.”

Alex Renton, writing in the Observer:

“The world is going to get hungrier this century, and on a scale that will make the famines of the 1980s look paltry. The maths are simple and devastating: in 40 years time the global population will be 9.2 billion-a third larger than it is now. But to feed us all, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says , we will need to produce twice as much food.”

The reason is, “despite the threats of this century, most developing countries will get richer (for a while). At present 350m households in the world live on 8,000 (British pound) a year or more. The figure is projected to increase to 2.1 bn by 2030. And the richer they are, the more wastefully people eat.

Experts consistently state that we will need the equivalent of two earths to sustain that population of 9.2 billion. We don’t have it now and we won’t have it by 2030 or 2050.

India , like China, is developing rapidly and encountering the same problems; water shortages and climate change.

For example, “In Haryana and Punjab, two states crucial to India’s food security, farmers are drawing too much groundwater. Dubbed the subcontinent’s breadbasket, this region has been the heartland of India’s green revolution since the mid-1960s. The high-yielding crop varieties grown here have enabled the country to feed its huge, fast-growing population. But the hybrid crops of the green revolution require a lot of water as well as fertilizer and pesticides.”

“A new analysis of NASA satellite data for the north-west of India from 2002 to 2008 has found aquifers are disappearing at an alarming rate. The study warns of the potential ‘collapse of agriculture’ and severe shortages of drinking water in the region unless things change.”

Adding to the problem is that farmers have changed to growing water-intensive crops, such as rice, cotton and wheat. And, in a recent Punjab Government water policy report, “the state’s water resources were being polluted by industrial waste, sewage and excessive pesticide in agriculture.”See Water wars loom in a nation of parched fields.

The fact is that leaders of the world are trying to complete deals with those nations which have resources that are essential to survival in today’s overpopulated, interdependent world, for example; oil,  food and water. But they aren’t solving the problem. They’re just trying to buy more time as globalization works its unrestrained magic in a corporate-run world, where extreme self-interest, aka greed, is the only reason for existing. It’s a world where every decision is based on “What’s in it for me?”

And that is a recipe for failure. Big time.