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Africa: from famine to the world’s next breadbasket?

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China has invested $800 million in rice production in Mozambique, and Jordan has secured tens of thousands of hectares for livestock and crops in Sudan. In September, the South Korean government announced that it will develop 100,000 hectares of farmland in Tanzania, at least half of which will go to South Korean businesses raising grains and producing processed food such as cooking oil and starch.

Corporate investors are also getting involved. London and Wall Street firms have shown new interest in farmland investment vehicles. Given the state of the global financial market – and the 2008 food crisis during which wheat and other food staple prices soared to record highs – food and land seem safe long-term investments, says Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN.

Proponents of the land deals say this spate of investment is a global win-win. Land-scarce countries in the Gulf, Asia, and elsewhere have a new way to protect themselves from food shortages, and Africa gets much-needed capital and expertise to turn its rich agricultural potential into actual food. And recently the UN and the Washington D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have given lukewarm backing to the land acquisitions, as long as both sides follow codes of conduct.

“Foreign investment can provide key resources for agriculture, including development of needed infrastructure and expansion of livelihood options for local people,” Jachim von Braun, IFPRI’s director general, wrote earlier this year.

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