Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Politics of Food

How would you feel if your own government placed you in competition with foreigners for foodstocks grown in your own country? How would you feel about it if your country was already facing food shortages?

These questions aren't hypothetical in some parts of the world. These scenarios are happening today and it's a problem that's rapidly worsening.

At first it was east Africa where China and some Middle Eastern states began appropriating top grade farmland to grow crops for their people at home. Offer a couple of hundred million in foreign aid, build a dam or a bridge or a new presidential palace and suddenly small farmers are being cleared from their holdings to make way for your brand new agri-business.

Now, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs office, the same syndrome has reached Southeast Asia.

Sam Pov, a rice farmer in Cambodia’s western Battambang Province, is very worried that his land will be taken over by a foreign investor.

"I've heard the rumours about [Kuwait and Qatar]. I heard they might get our land because they need food," he said.

"The commune leaders haven't talked to us yet, and I don't think they will if the time comes. This is a good time for them to get paid and get huge benefits."

Last year, delegations from oil-rich Kuwait and Qatar visited the impoverished nation, eyeing leases on land to export food back home - a move that could leave many Cambodians without enough food, say activists and NGOs.

Kuwait has reportedly offered US$546 million to the Southeast Asian nation in loans for dams and roads, while Qatar will invest $200 million in agriculture.

The International Food Policy Research Institute reports that land grabbing is becoming extensive in Asia:

CAMBODIA: Land being leased by Kuwait for rice (in negotiations) 100,000ha rubber plantation secured by Vietnam

LAOS: 100,000ha rubber plantation secured by Vietnam

PHILIPPINES: 10,000ha for agro-fishery secured by Bahrain 100,000ha for Qatar 1.24 million hectares for an unknown company in China (on hold)

INDONESIA: 500,000ha, a $4.3 billion rice investment, secured by Bin Laden Group of Saudi Arabia (on hold)

CHINA: 10 poultry farms worth $300 million and pig farms for $250-300 million purchased by Goldman Sachs of USA

Goldman Sachs buying up poultry and pig farms in China? There's a troubling message in that. The world is running out of food, something that's being accelerated by climate change and a global freshwater crisis. We're about to play a game of international musical chairs in which wealthier nations exploit poorer nations to lay claim to foodstocks those poorer nations often cannot really afford to sell without harming their own people.

Goldman Sachs knows that we're on the edge of an era where we'll be gaming the international food market as never before and the little guy, the guy who can't afford to get into the game, is going to take it in the neck.


penlan said...

Thanks for the info on that. I had no idea.

Anonymous said...


We have just added your latest post "The Disaffected Lib: The Politics of Food" to our Food Directory . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

Warm Regards Team

Oemissions said...

Excellent report!

The Mound of Sound said...

Thank you, Oem. Now, if you really find this worthwhile, do something about it. I have reined in my blogging to pursue advocating for this sort of looming problem. From what I've seen, the current Liberal regime is an empty vessel on virtually every challenge facing our planet and including our "last and least" blessed Canada.

I have begun engaging moderate and liberal Americans to examine and discuss issues that will severely impact them, not so much today but within the next decade, two at the outset.

At the outset I was met with disdain and a measure of angry indifference, even narcissism. But, as I kept pursuing these issues as questions, not as positions, it was remarkable how quickly in most cases the "shields" were lowered.

So, I'm not bidding adieu entirely to the Liberal movement. I will continue to post here albeit less frequently than in the past. In any event, more than 3,000 posts in far less than 3-years is to burden enough others with my dogma.

I'm beginning to see an enormous disconnect between liberalism and the current Liberal Party of Canada and, worse, it's becoming genuinely boring.

LeDaro said...

Hey Mound, you have a lot of readers including me. Please do post and post often.

penlan said...

Have you read this?:,0,3346864.story?track=ntothtml

Do you have any links to more information you would be willing to share? I'd like to read more.

UU4077 said...

My "pet peeve" are terminator seeds. No reason for them except to further impoverish the 3rd world in the pursuit of the almighty buck. I am also not a big fan of Monsanto.

Have you seen "The World According to Monsanto"? I believe it's on YouTube in 10(?) parts.

Go for it, MoS. And, update us from time to time.

In related news, you might want to check out It's not my work, but it provides some interesting information (although not strictly food realted).