China to push for overseas acquisition of farmland to improve food security
May 13, 2008
Worries over food security may drive China to seek agricultural lands abroad, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Under a proposal by the Ministry of Agriculture, Chinese companies will be encouraged to acquire farmland overseas. The initiative would make foreign land acquisition by Chinese agricultural firms a central government policy.
The Financial Times reports that the ministry is already in talks with Brazil about acquiring land for soy production. Last year China imported 60 percent of its soy, some of which came from Brazil, the world’s largest soy producer. Brazil has vast tracts of land suitable for soybeans.
Chinese firms have also been aggressively investing in oil palm plantations in Indonesia. Palm oil is used in many food products.
The news will likely stoke environmentalists’ fears that agricultural expansion will come at the expense of biologically-rich ecosystems like rainforests and the peatlands. In recent years soy and oil palm have been increasingly grown on ecologically-sensitive lands in the Brazilian Amazon and on Indonesian islands.
The proposal did not specify whether Chinese agricultural firms would be subject to guidelines put forth in a sustainable forestry handbook distributed last year. The manual called for a ban on illegal logging and clearing of natural forests for plantations established abroad by Chinese companies.