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Recent strong commodity prices have led to risingdemand for farmland and this is projected to continuefor the medium term because of increasing populationsand incomes and growing use of biofuels. Global analysisindicates that about 450 Mha of suitable land may beavailable to bring into cultivation, much of it in sub-SaharanAfrica, Latin America and Russia. Improved returns infarming and relatively cheap land in some countrieshave translated into a sharp rise in domestic and foreigninvestment into farmland, largely focused on these samecountries with uncultivated land. Investors have beenvery heterogeneous, with many from emerging countriesand some with little track record in agriculture, but supported by risingportfolio investor interest in agriculture. Despite perceptions, governmentsand sovereign wealth funds make up a relatively small share of suchinvestments. A surprising development, given the long tradition of familyfarming almost everywhere, has been the rise of corporate ‘superfarms’often managing over 100,000 ha of prime cropland. Where land and othermarkets work well, strong investor interest in agriculture represents anopportunity to tap capital, technology and new markets. However, whereland governance is poor and institutional capacity weak, there have beenmany failures, whether measured in economic, social or environmentalterms, especially in Africa and South-East Asia. In Australia, given skilledfarmers and strong institutions, there seems little reason for concern aboutrecent reports of foreign investment in farmland. Australia has led the worldin arguing for freer agricultural trade and investment and should continueto do so. Increased transparency through a register of such investmentscould alleviate fears in some circles of a foreign ‘land grab’ in Australia.

Subject(s): Agricultural and Food Policy

Land Economics/Use

Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies

Issue Date: 2012-10

Publication Type: Conference Paper/ Presentation

PURL Identifier: Page range: 28-38

Total Pages: 12

Record appears in: Crawford Fund > 2012: The Scramble for Natural Resources: More Food, Less Land?, 9-10 October 2012

Autor: Byerlee, Derek R.


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