Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oil 4 soil

"Last month, two high-level Kuwaiti delegations toured Southeast Asia's food-producing countryside, looking to invest in agricultural lands and agro-business partnerships on a contract farming basis. Those visits came amid similar regional overtures from other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

During the visit of the al-Shatti delegation on August 21, Kuwait announced it would provide Cambodia with more than $546 million in soft loans for a variety of infrastructure projects, largely in the agricultural sector.

Even bigger Qatari investments are in store for Vietnam. Qatar and Vietnam have established a $1 billion investment fund of which a portion would be dedicated to agriculture, the Qatar-based Gulf Times reported on September 2. An estimated 90% of the fund's equity will be provided by the Qatar Investment Authority, a national sovereign wealth fund.

There is, of course, a political risk attached to investments that in certain instances could act to create a new class of global landlords. The Gulf state overtures also come against the backdrop of rampant official land-grabbing in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, where private ownership rights are not firmly established as their economies transition from communist to capitalist systems.

A group of potential Saudi investors were taken to survey rice farming areas in Thailand's central Suphanburi province in May, led by deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The proposal involved renting, not selling, the land, which foreigners are barred from owning in Thailand, and the creation of a joint rice-exporting venture.

The surveyed land was apparently owned by a ruling coalition politician with the Chat Thai party. Nonetheless Agriculture Minister Somsak Prissnanantakul and the Thai Farmers Association came out strongly against the idea, accusing the plan's proponents of selling off the country to foreigners and jeopardizing Thai farmers' unique way of life." (Thanks Marcy for the link and the title too)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are welcome, but i can't take credit for the title. al jazeera just did a report on it and that's what they called it.