Madagascar denies ‘land grab’ by South Korean conglomerate
November 22, 2008
Officials from Madagascar are denying they have reached an agreement to turn over half the island nation’s arable land to a South Korean corporation for food production, reports Reuters. The controversial deal — which would have paid Madagascar nothing and turned over 1.3 million hectares to produce corn and palm oil for export at a time when one-third of country’s children are malnourished — was reported last week by the Financial Times.
“Several announcements have been made regarding Daewoo Logistics’ project which are erroneous and we would like to set the record straight,” Eric Beantanana, of the Economic Development Board of Madagascar, told Reuters on Thursday.
“The contract which we signed in July with Daewoo Logistics concerns only the facilitation of a land search. We were to help them look for land. Furthermore, we are talking about a search for 100,000 hectares … It is only after this stage that the rest of the process will continue.”
But Marius Ratolojanahary, Madagascar’s land reform minister, added that the deal “has not moved beyond the stage of intention”.
“We proposed two sites in Boeny and Menabe regions. Daewoo Logistics will look at the suitability of the land. It will then return to government with the results of its study,” he told Reuters.
“Then it must conduct an environmental impact assessment on the area. But for the time being I don’t have the results from the first study.”
South Korea’s Daewoo has signed a 99-year lease for half of Madagascar’s arable land, reports the Financial Times. The agreement covers 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) — an area half the size of Belgium. Daewoo says it plans to plant corn on 1 million hectares in the arid western part of the island and 300,000 ha (740,000 acres) of oil palm on land in the tropical east, a region that is home to the bulk of Madagascar’s rare rainforests. The company will produce the food for export and plans to import workers from South Africa, although a Daewoo spokesman said that the project could create up to 70,000 local jobs.