Land Grabbing
Who is buying the earth?
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The origin of the investors, who are buying land worldwide. US investors have bought six times more land than Chinese investors have. By THE EDITORIAL TEAM



Translated by Benjamin Fredrich and Christine Crawford

"Land Grabbing: China is reinventing globalization"1 is the headline of an article from the well-known German economy newspaper Handelsblatt. This headline is incorrect, because Chinese farm lease contracts are neither the first nor are they of particular importance. US investors have bought six times more land than Chinese investors have.

"China and the USA split up the world". The landmatrix.org2 database refutes this myth. Regarding the issue of land grabbing, no other country is acting like the United States. Regarding the issues of buying fertile land and forest areas, the US is way ahead compared to its rivals.

China hasn't been anywhere near as involved, as initially thought. Contrary to this, activities over the last five years have shown clearly that the US has steadily been extending its lead. Investors in the United States have bought more than 27,000 square miles of land. This is equal to an area the size of Belgium and the Netherlands put together. China however, has only bought 5,000 square miles.

At the turn of the 21st century, investors started to lease farmland and woodland areas, mainly in developing countries to cultivate land and clear the wood. The length of these lease contracts predominantly exceed 100 years. For the present and the next generation, this means that the lease contracts actually have the effect of a sales contract.

Dictators and democrats are selling fertile land to business people - land that has been nourishing the population up to this point.


The governments of some poor states are exploiting their underdeveloped or non-existent civil law. In these states farmers have been cultivating their land for generations (custom law or unofficial law), but they don't possess property certificates for the land. The sales are legal, but not fair (legitimate). Dictators and democrats are selling fertile land to business people - land that has been nourishing the population up to this point. The landmatrix.org database implies approved and planned land leasing contracts. Data on land leasing contracts held on the landmatrix.org database, is presumed to be approved and planned. There have only been a few occasions when planned contracts have not been submitted for application. Countries like South Sudan are leasing its fertile land, stating financial problems are the official reason. Unofficially, contracts like these are often linked to corruption.

At the moment, the landmatrix.org database is the biggest dataset on land investments (land grabbing). However, it does not mean that all the information has been collected. This is why it is possible for users to send land leasing contracts, as there is information missing from the database.


[1] Rinke, Andreas: Land Grabbing: China erfindet Globalisierung neu, in: Handelsblatt (18.08.2009), URL: http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/land-grabbing-china-erfindet-globalisierung-neu/3240416.html, 25.03.2015.
[2] URL: http://landmatrix.org/en/, 25.03.2015.


14.03.2015

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