Welcome to the 2010 Guerilla Girls Blog! We are the Guerilla Girls! We are 13 Hao Ran Foundation volunteers (all females!) and we will soon get to deploy our wings in different countries of the world to work with various non-governmental organizations and social movements as a way to reinforce social justice and solidarity. We wish to open communication and share our experience with the rest of the world, because we strongly believe that ‘ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE!’ Read More

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2011年6月23日 星期四

Why Chinese Agricultural Overseas Investment is important: from People’s Perspectives

The NGO that I presently work for, Focus on the Global South has been dealing with the issue over farmland grabbing in Mekong region. As China has become a vital role in this region in terms of foreign aid and investment, and the agricultural investment accounts for the growing percentage of them, my main work at Focus is to keep tracking on the Chinese agribusiness investment in Mekong countries.

The global food crisis has triggered many emerging developing countries to seek overseas farmlands to supply their domestic food need, and the leading countries include China, Middle East countries, South Korea, India, etc. China, with its 1.3 billion people’s population who start to consume more meat, is definitely under global attention; it has claimed that its goal of overseas farmlands is 2 million hectare, and the main targeted countries are the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Laos, etc.

This trend is not limited to food production. Biofuel, rubber, pulp and timber plantation has also been proliferating due to the worry about the lack of these economies’ resources to supply the need for economic growth.

Most of the policy-makers and politicians worldwide see this recent tendency as changing geopolitics, since there is no much recent development of the offshore agriculture supply control made by the US and EU countries because of their economic crisis, and it seems that the emerging economies are expanding their agriculture production bases especially in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America with the influx of investment or aid which can meanwhile develop the host countries economies. However, what’s more worrisome is whether this tendency will lead to the land grab conflicts, not only among these emerging developing countries and host countries, but also among the investing companies and the local communities.

When it comes to the bad deeds made by Chinese enterprises, people usually refer to its notorious image of bullying, bribery and ignorance about the local opposition. The recent wide concern about the Chinese overseas agricultural investment is not in Mekong region, but in Latin America. Last year it was confirmed that the Chinese state-owned agribusiness company Beidahuang (北大荒農墾) had signed an agreement, with the government of Patagonia's Río Negro province, Argentina, which provides the framework for it to acquire up to 320,000 hectares of privately owned farmland, along with irrigation rights and a concession on the San Antonio port.[1] The farmland is to provide soya back to China, since soya is mainly controlled by four world’s biggest agricultural enterprises, i.e. ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus.

Argentinian environmental groups and constitutional experts are outraged. The law experts are worried that the Chinese have been buying Argentinian land for five years, but the land should prioritise the local people’s need. And the excessive concentration of land will push away small and middle-sized owners.

Environmentalists in Río Negro say the Chinese arrival will mean heavy use of agrochemicals, ecological degradation and severe strain on the region's water resources. Some of the land in question is virgin forest that would be deforested.

And since soya cultivation is highly mechanised it will prompt unemployment in the area, as it has elsewhere in the country where many rural communities have seen an increase in deep poverty as jobs are lost.[2]

The land conflicts caused by the Chinese food production also happened in Asia. According to the article “The New Geopolitics of Food”, released by Foreign Policy this April, local hostility toward such land grabs is the rule, not the exception. In 2007, as food prices were starting to rise, China signed an agreement with the Philippines to lease 2.5 million acres of land slated for food crops that would be shipped home. Once word leaked, the public outcry -- much of it from Filipino farmers -- forced Manila to suspend the agreement.[3]

Although it is still too early to judge how much the Mekong countries will be affected by Chinese recent expansion of offshore agricultural supply, the previous investment experiences have led to a lot of controversy between the local residents and the investors, especially in Laos, Burma and Cambodia. For instance, northern Laos and Burma are influenced by the Chinese offshore rubber plantation most, and almost all large-scale rubber plantation and concession in northern Laos and northern Burma are the result from the subsidies incentives of Opium Replacement and Going Out policies. Land grabbing conflicts are sometimes cause by the continuous collusion between the Lao military and Chinese companies, and very often the Lao authority is ignorant or intentionally ignorant about the unofficial military contracts with the investors. The Lao army sees rubber as a promising income generating activity. Without the capacity to develop plantations on its own, the army looks across the border for partners. At least three different Chinese companies contract with the provincial army to plant rubber, including Ruifeng along the Mekong River in the Long district, Heli along the eastern border of the Mom cluster in Sing district, and a third company also in Mom to the west.[4]

Meanwhile, local villagers are the victims under the collusion, since the concession which is supposed to use the military land often triggers the dispute over the legitimate ownership belonged to military or local people. For instance, the military concession in Ban Chagnee forced local swidden cultivation farmers to cede their land with gunfire, and the food security started to be threatened.

According to the official statistics, the total Chinese accumulated overseas investment in 2009 was USD 245.75 billion, and agricultural sector was only USD 2.03 billion, which accounted for 0.8%. However, China has claimed that it would promote agribusiness to do overseas investment; the highest subsidy one company can get annually is CNY 30 million this year. Also, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Commerce are drafting the strategies of agricultural going out, including the policies of finance, fiscal, taxation, and insurance, and Ministry of Agriculture is drafting "agricultural cooperation: the development plan for twelfth five. (i.e. year 2011~2015)" It is expected that the Chinese government will accelerate its overseas agriculture expansion, and the impact on Mekong countries is worth our concerns.

[1] Global food crisis: China land deal causes unease in Argentina, Guardian, June 1st, 2011. Original source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/jun/01/china-land-deal-unease-argentina-agribusiness

[2] Global food crisis: China land deal causes unease in Argentina, Guardian, June 1st, 2011. Original source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/jun/01/china-land-deal-unease-argentina-agribusiness

[3] The New Geopolitics of Food, Lester R. Brown, Foreign Policy, April 25th, 2011. Original source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/25/the_new_geopolitics_of_food

[4] Rubber Boom in Luang Namtha: A Transnational Perspective, Weiyi Shi, Feb. 2008

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