Thursday, June 02, 2011

Grabbing land from Argentina

Running out of farm land to feed all of its people, China has been buying up land in other parts of the world. The so-called "land grabs" have been criticized as being unfair to the people near the purchased land. The food grown in the purchased land goes overseas instead of into the mouths of local residents. Since most of this land has been purchased in Africa the concern is that the food is being taken away from people who often face starvation.

From the Guardian, we learn of another large land purchase in Argentina. Writer Felicity Lawrence says that local Argentinians are concerned that the Chinese will put too great of a strain on local water resources.

Last year it was confirmed that the company had signed an agreement, with the government of Patagonia's Río Negro province, which provides the framework for it to acquire up to 320,000 hectares (790,000 acres) of privately owned farmland, along with irrigation rights and a concession on the San Antonio port.

Details of the deal, alleged to have been kept quiet, have been emerging in recent weeks as Chinese technicians have started work.

Beidahuang has also reported a 2008 deal on 200,000 ha in the Philippines, and says it plans to buy palm oil plantations and grain terminals this year as it pursues the Chinese government's policy of securing food supply lines from abroad.

Beidahuang, based in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, is the leading soya producer in China and one of the country's five largest soya processors. It also raises more than 600,000 cows, 1.3m pigs and more than 6m chickens at any one time.

Environmentalists in Río Negro say the Chinese arrival will mean heavy use of agrochemicals, ecological degradation and severe strain on the region's water resources. Some of the land in question is virgin forest that would be deforested.
Dams have already cut the flow of the Negro river, they say, and Chinese plans to invest $20m (£12m) immediately to build irrigation infrastructure would strain resources further. The campaigners say that since soya cultivation is highly mechanised it will prompt unemployment in the area, as it has elsewhere in the country where many rural communities have seen an increase in deep poverty as jobs are lost.
Elvio Mendioroz, president of Uñopatún, an agro-ecoclogical group that opposes the Chinese deal, said the agreement had been kept secret. "China has run out of land to feed its people, and is suffering drought and soil erosion, so they come here.

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