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Over the past 13 years, nearly 36 million hectares of land — an area almost the size of Germany — has been snapped up in large-scale land deals. These deals have shifted land from local farmers, ...
Over the past 13 years, nearly 36 million hectares of land — an area almost the size of Germany — has been snapped up in large-scale land deals. These deals have shifted land from local farmers, communities and forests to companies, largely driven by the international demand for agricultural commodities like sugar, palm oil, soy and timber.
As food prices have spiked, commercial interest in land has grown, with large-scale land deals accelerating astonishingly; the bulk of these deals took place over the past five years. Australia’s doorstep — South-East Asia — leads the world as the target region for large-scale land deals.
While land deals by foreign investors in Australia have been contentious domestically, Australians may have missed the extent to which these deals have dominated headlines in developing countries, or how many of these deals have resulted in communities around the world being left hungry
Stories abound of large-scale land deals failing to respect local land rights, violent community unrest and an investment rush that targets the poorest nations with weak land institutions. A review by the World Bank found that many of these deals “... failed to live up to expectations and, instead of generating sustainable benefits, contributed to asset loss and left local people worse off than they would have been without the investment”.
There are reports of foreign land investors paying yearly “lease” fees from as little as seven cents per hectare. Research from Oxfam, the United Nations and other organisations paints a concerning picture of investments failing to support sustainable development in host nations, leading many to dub the phenomenon a global “land grab”.
For the first time, this report reveals worrying connections between all of Australia’s big four banks — ANZ, Westpac, the National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) — and allegations of land grabbing overseas.