The latest example: a plan by the Indonesian government to develop a Connecticut-sized farming tract on the remote province of Papua to grow rice, sugar cane and soybeans. Promoters of the project have met with Saudi investors in the hopes of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in return for dedicating part of the crops to the Middle East nation.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations are scouring the globe for agricultural investments to lock in supply of key crops like wheat, corn and rice, much as countries like China have invested billions to secure a steady stream of oil.
There is a big risk in the new trend. Nations such as Indonesia have had to contend with protests at home as food prices have risen this year. The idea of attracting investment in return for exporting politically sensitive crops like rice could stir further discontent and prompt accusations that rich nations are being favored over the domestic market."