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Land grab raises concerns about food security

A wave of agricultural land purchases by Middle Eastern investment groups in emerging markets is causing disquiet among governments, NGOs and development institutions. Are these investments for commercial gain, or a grab for food security? Nick Lord reports.

IN 2008 MUCH of the developed world was fixated on the global financial crisis, as banks went under and economies collapsed into recession. But in many emerging markets a more fundamental crisis was brewing. From Haiti to Bangladesh, Madagascar to Egypt, local populations were rioting over the rapidly rising cost of food. Much like the debt crisis in the west, this is a crisis that three years later has not been solved. And much like the debt crisis, high-level policy decisions by governments and rich institutions have made the food crisis worse, not better. According to the UN’s FAO Food Price Index, global food prices were on average 39% higher in June 2011 than they were in June 2010. However, food prices are still 4% below their all-time high, which was reached in February 2011. But that month coincided with the greatest outbreak of political unrest the world has seen for a number of years.

While much of the focus has been on the price of food on the ground, there has also been a widespread programme of buying farmland in emerging countries.

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