New World Bank Report on Agriculture Expansion

The World Bank (WB) this month released its long-awaited report on the global ‘land-grab’ issue that has been popularised recently by environmental NGO’s accusing the developed world of ‘neo-colonialism.’ The issue centres on the purchasing of large tracts of farmland throughout developing regions of the world, a practice the new report states has increased ten-fold in the last decade.

Released just weeks after a NGO report claimed that European companies were ‘grabbing’ land for biofuel crops at the expense of local communities throughout Africa, the WB publication focuses more on development and less on hysterics.  In principle, the report supports the notion of large scale agricultural investment in developing nations, stating “When done right, larger-scale farming can provide opportunities to poor countries with large agricultural sectors and ample endowments of land.”  

This view is a sensible one – examples of successful agricultural investment and the economic and social benefits it brings to a country can be found on every continent.  As the report correctly notes, over the last 15 years the auction of some 235,000 hectares of public land has brought almost USD 50 million of investment into Peru’s coastal regions, generating large numbers of jobs and underpinning the country’s emergence as a major force in high value agro-exports.