When the gov­ern­ment offi­cials, pub­lic insti­tu­tions and state-owned assets are all for sale, what’s six mil­lion acres of farm­land between friends? Is this a wise move? Find out…

Dolce & Gabbana

Pak­istan For Sale

There are two par­al­lel agen­das dri­ving two kinds of land grab­bers. The first track is food secu­rity. A num­ber of coun­tries which rely on food imports and are wor­ried about tight­en­ing mar­kets, while they do have cash to throw around, are seek­ing to out­source their domes­tic food pro­duc­tion by gain­ing con­trol of farms in other coun­tries.

They see this as an inno­v­a­tive long-term strat­egy to feed their peo­ple at a good price and with far greater secu­rity than hith­erto. Saudi Ara­bia, Japan, China, India, Korea, Libya and Egypt all fall into this bas­ket. High-level offi­cials from many of these nations have been on the road since March 2008 in a diplo­matic trea­sure hunt for fer­tile farm­land in places like Uganda, Brazil, Cam­bo­dia, Sudan and Pak­istan. Given the con­tin­u­ing Dar­fur cri­sis, where the World Food Pro­gram is try­ing to feed 5.6 mil­lion refugees, it might seem crazy that for­eign gov­ern­ments are buy­ing up farm­land in Sudan to pro­duce and export food for their own cit­i­zens. Ditto in Cam­bo­dia, where 100,000 fam­i­lies, or half a mil­lion peo­ple, cur­rently lack food. Yet this is what is hap­pen­ing today. Con­vinced that farm­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties are lim­ited and the mar­ket can’t be relied upon, “food inse­cure” gov­ern­ments are shop­ping for land else­where to pro­duce their own food. At the other end, those gov­ern­ments being courted for the use of their coun­tries’ farm­land are gen­er­ally wel­com­ing these offers of fresh for­eign invest­ment.

The sec­ond track is finan­cial returns. Given the cur­rent finan­cial melt­down, all sorts of play­ers in the finance and food indus­tries – the invest­ment houses that man­age work­ers’ pen­sions, pri­vate equity funds look­ing for a fast turnover, hedge funds dri­ven off the now col­lapsed deriv­a­tives mar­ket, grain traders seek­ing new strate­gies for growth are turn­ing to land, for both food and fuel pro­duc­tion, as a new source of profit. To get a return, investors need to raise the pro­duc­tive capac­i­ties of the land and some­times even get their hands dirty actu­ally run­ning a farm.

Experts say the agri­cul­ture invest­ments could be a win-win sit­u­a­tion. The Gulf gains food secu­rity, while poorer devel­op­ing coun­tries ben­e­fit from added jobs and improved tech­nol­ogy. But there are con­cerns, too. The head of the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Orga­ni­za­tion, Jacques Diouf, has warned that for­eign land acqui­si­tion and long-term leas­ing schemes, if done poorly, risk cre­at­ing a neo­colo­nial pact” and “unac­cept­able work con­di­tions for agri­cul­tural work­ers.”

Even so, some coun­tries are seek­ing out invest­ment. The food secu­rity land grab is the one that most peo­ple have been hear­ing about, with news­pa­pers report­ing that Saudi Ara­bia and China are out buy­ing farm­land all over the world, from Soma­lia to Kaza­khstan. But there are many more coun­tries involved. A closer look reveals an impres­sive list of food secu­rity land grab­bers: China, India, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea in Asia; Egypt and Libya in Africa; and Bahrain, Jor­dan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates in the Mid­dle East.

The sit­u­a­tion of these coun­tries varies a great deal, of course. China is remark­ably self-sufficient in food. But it has a huge pop­u­la­tion, its agri­cul­tural lands have been dis­ap­pear­ing to indus­trial devel­op­ment, its water sup­plies are under seri­ous stress and the Com­mu­nist Party has a long-term future to think of, it should sur­prise no one that food secu­rity is high on the Chi­nese  government’s agenda. And with more than US$1.8 tril­lion in for­eign exchange reserves, China has deep pock­ets from which to invest in its own food secu­rity abroad. As many farm­ers’ lead­ers and activists in south-east Asia know, Bei­jing has been grad­u­ally out­sourc­ing part of its food pro­duc­tion since well before the global food cri­sis broke out in 2007. Through China’s new geopo­lit­i­cal diplo­macy, and the government’s aggres­sive “Go Abroad” out­ward invest­ment strat­egy, some 30 agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tion deals have been sealed in recent years to give Chi­nese firms access to “friendly coun­try” farm­land in exchange for Chi­nese tech­nolo­gies, train­ing and infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment funds. Chi­nese com­pa­nies leas­ing or buy­ing up land, set­ting up large farms, fly­ing in farm­ers, sci­en­tists and exten­sion work­ers, and get­ting down to the work of crop pro­duc­tion.

Most of China’s off­shore farm­ing is ded­i­cated to the cul­ti­va­tion of rice, soya beans and maize, along with bio-fuel crops like sugar cane, cas­sava or sorghum. The rice pro­duced abroad invari­ably means hybrid rice, grown from imported Chi­nese seeds, and Chi­nese farm­ers and sci­en­tists are enthu­si­as­ti­cally teach­ing Africans and oth­ers to grow rice “the Chi­nese way.” How­ever, local farm work­ers are hired to work the Chi­nese farms.

The Gulf States – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates – face a totally dif­fer­ent real­ity.

As nations built in the desert, they have scarce soil and water with which to grow crops or raise live­stock. But they do pos­sess enor­mous amounts of oil and money, which gives them pow­er­ful lever­age to rely on for­eign coun­tries for their food. The cur­rent food cri­sis has hit the Gulf States excep­tion­ally hard. Because they depend on food from abroad (espe­cially from Europe) and their cur­ren­cies are pegged to the US dol­lar, the simul­ta­ne­ous rise in food prices on the world mar­ket and the fall in the US dol­lar have meant that they have imported a lot of “extra infla­tion.” Their food import bill has bal­looned in the last five years from US$8bn to US$20bn. When the food cri­sis exploded, and rice sup­plies from Asia were cut off, Gulf lead­ers made fast cal­cu­la­tions and came to hard con­clu­sions. The Saudis decided that, given impend­ing water short­ages, it would make sense to stop pro­duc­ing wheat, their main food item, by 2016 and, instead, to grow and ship it over from else­where, pro­vided that the whole process was firmly under their own con­trol. The United Arab Emi­rates, 80 per­cent of whose pop­u­la­tion is migrant work­ers, most of them rice eaters from Asia, pan­icked. Under the aegis of the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC), they banded together with Bahrain and the other Gulf nations to for­mu­late a col­lec­tive strat­egy of out­sourc­ing food pro­duc­tion. Their idea is to secure deals, par­tic­u­larly in sis­ter Islamic coun­tries, by which they will sup­ply cap­i­tal and oil con­tracts in exchange for guar­an­tees that their cor­po­ra­tions will have access to farm­land and be able to export the pro­duce back home. The most heav­ily tar­geted states are, by far, Sudan and Pak­istan. The seri­ous­ness of the Gulf States’ drive should not be under­es­ti­mated.

Between March and August 2008, indi­vid­ual GCC coun­tries or indus­trial con­sor­tia leased under con­tract mil­lions of hectares of farm­land. Lead­ers of the GCC are plan­ning to final­ize offi­cial pol­icy on this.

Japan and South Korea, for instance, are two rich coun­tries whose gov­ern­ments have opted to rely on imports rather than self-sufficiency to feed their peo­ple. Both get around 60 per­cent of their food from abroad. Early in 2008, the Korean gov­ern­ment announced that it was for­mu­lat­ing a national plan to facil­i­tate land acqui­si­tions abroad for Korean food pro­duc­tion. Indeed, Korean food cor­po­ra­tions are already buy­ing up land in Mon­go­lia and east­ern Rus­sia to pro­duce food for export back home.

The new strat­egy is well under way in Burma, which sup­plies 1m of the 4m tons of lentils, that India imports each year to sup­ple­ment its domes­tic out­put of 15m tons. Rather than keep buy­ing

from Burma, Indian traders and proces­sors now want to go in and grow the lentils there them­selves. It works out cheaper, and they get more con­trol over the entire process. With the government’s sup­port, Indian cor­po­ra­tions are get­ting leases to Burmese farm­land to pro­duce the crop for exclu­sive export to India. The Indian gov­ern­ment is pro­vid­ing the Burmese mil­i­tary junta with spe­cial new funds to upgrade its port infra­struc­ture, and is aggres­sively push­ing a tai­lored bilat­eral free trade and invest­ment agree­ment to iron out the pol­icy wrin­kles between the two states. But it doesn’t stop there. Indian CEOs are also buy­ing up Indone­sian palm-oil plan­ta­tions, and are now board­ing planes to Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil to find land to grow pulses and soya beans for export to India. Mean­while the nation’s cen­tral bank, the Reserve Bank of India, is quickly try­ing to change India’s laws so that it may issue Indian pri­vate com­pa­nies, with the loans they need to pur­chase farm­land over­seas. Such a pos­si­bil­ity has never been con­tem­plated before, so the rules don’t exist.

The Gulf States, among other land grab­bers, are quite lucid about their inten­tion to (a) secure food sup­plies through direct own­er­ship or con­trol of for­eign farm­land, and (b) exclude traders and other mid­dle­men as much as pos­si­ble in order to cut their food import bills by 20 – 25 per­cent. Indeed, they have been forced to go to places like Islam­abad and Bangkok and ask the gov­ern­ments there to lift their export bans on rice just for their spe­cial farms. The under­ly­ing con­tempt that all of this shows for open mar­kets and free trade, so much lauded by West­ern advis­ers over the last four decades, is glar­ing.

Another fun­da­men­tal issue is that work­ers, farm­ers and local com­mu­ni­ties will inevitably lose access to land for local food pro­duc­tion. The very basis on which to build food sov­er­eignty is sim­ply being bartered away. The gov­ern­ments, the investors and the devel­op­ment agen­cies that are being drawn into these projects will argue that jobs will be cre­ated and some food will be left behind. But these don’t replace land and the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing and liv­ing off the land. In fact, what should be obvi­ous is that the real prob­lem with the cur­rent land grab is not sim­ply the mat­ter of giv­ing for­eign­ers con­trol of domes­tic farm­lands. It’s the restruc­tur­ing.

For these lands will be trans­formed from small hold­ings or forests, what­ever they may be, into large indus­trial estates con­nected to large far-off mar­kets. Farm­ers will never be real farm­ers again, job or no job. This will prob­a­bly be the biggest con­se­quence.

Pak­istan opens more farm­land to for­eign­ers

Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan

Sen­a­tor Waqar Ahmed Khan

Pak­istan dra­mat­i­cally increased the amount of farm­land open to for­eign investors to 6 mil­lion acres, but will require out­siders to share half of their crop with local grow­ers, Pakistan’s invest­ment min­is­ter told Reuters (May 17,2009). Crop shar­ing will defuse ten­sions with local farm­ers fear­ful of being crowded out by wealthy for­eign­ers as Pak­istan opens exist­ing farm­land to out­siders for sale or long-term lease, said Waqar Ahmed Khan, Fed­eral Min­is­ter of Invest­ments.

Gulf Arab coun­tries reliant on food imports have ramped up efforts over the last year to buy land in devel­op­ing nations rang­ing from Pak­istan to the Philip­pines and Ethiopia. “We expect the investors in farm­land to give the local farm­ers 50 per­cent of the land’s yield, in addi­tion trans­fer­ring the tech­nol­ogy which will help increase the out­put of the land by three times,” Khan said dur­ing a trip to the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) to rally investor sup­port. “We have to apply these reg­u­la­tions to sup­port the inter­ests of the local farm­ers, oth­er­wise we will be fac­ing objec­tions from the farm­ers, and we need to keep them happy,” he added.

Farm­ers’ con­cerns have led the south­west­ern Pak­istan province of Balochis­tan to block direct deals between pri­vate investors based in the UAE and farm­ers, Nasir Khosa, gen­eral chief-secretary of Balochistan’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment, said in April 2009.

The United Nation’s Human Right Coun­cil has expressed con­cern over the sale of farm­land and called for a code of con­duct. “We will do every­thing to pro­tect farm­ers’ inter­ests,” said Khan.

Last month, Khan said the coun­try had a mil­lion acres of farm­land to offer to investors. “Recently, we have been able to iden­tify around 6 mil­lion acres of farm­land in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try which can be leased out on long-term basis or sold,” he said.

Six mil­lion acres is the equiv­a­lent of 2.43 mil­lion hectares. Dur­ing Pakistan’s Gulf farm­land sale road show, a lot of inter­est came from UAE investors, espe­cially in acquir­ing farm­land to pro­duce ani­mal feed and rear­ing live­stock, said Amjad Nazir, the joint sec­re­tary at Pakistan’s Min­istry of Food and Agri­cul­ture.

“All week we had meet­ings with investors from both the pri­vate and the pub­lic sec­tor and I think very soon we will be send­ing del­e­ga­tions to study the oppor­tu­ni­ties here,” said Nazir. Emi­rates Invest­ment Group, a private-sector invest­ment com­pany based in Shar­jah, the third-largest emi­rate of the UAE, said last month it was in the process of acquir­ing farm­land in Pak­istan to export more food to the Gulf region. Last year, pri­vate Abu Dhabi-based invest­ment firm Al Qudra said it had plans to start agri­cul­ture projects in Pak­istan.

To attract the for­eign investors, the gov­ern­ment would guar­an­tee full exemp­tion from duties and other levies for all equip­ment imported for farm land projects. In India for­eign com­pa­nies are banned from acquir­ing farm land but allowed to oper­ate on rented prop­erty.

Efforts to sell farm­lands began in year 2000 but so far have met sig­nif­i­cant oppo­si­tion. For exam­ple, an offi­cial of Pakistan’s Min­istry of Food and Agri­cul­ture said in July 2000, “We are work­ing to final­ize a pol­icy for intro­duc­ing cor­po­rate agri­cul­ture in the coun­try where large farm hold­ings will be allowed to com­pa­nies which would seek list­ing in the stock exchange.” Under the pro­posal, for­eign com­pa­nies were to be granted a 30-year lease on government-owned land that could be extended for another 20 years. How­ever, food rights cam­paign­ers expressed the fear that profit-driven agribusi­ness transna­tional com­pa­nies (TNCs) would use Pak­istan as a base for export­ing cash crops which would replace sta­ple cere­als on the country’s farms.

Huma Fakhar

Huma Fakhar

Huma Fakhar, a mar­ket research and trade con­sul­tant, said Pak­istan is a log­i­cal choice for Gulf invest­ments. Fakhar said an investor from Abu Dhabi, whom she declined to name, last year, bought about 16,000 hectares, or 40,000 acres, of farm­land in the Pak­istani province of Balochis­tan. Two UAE firms, Emi­rates Invest­ments Group and Abraaj Cap­i­tal, have also expressed inter­est in invest­ing directly in Pak­istani agri­cul­ture. A few months ear­lier, some locals from the Makran area expressed their frus­tra­tion with Arab investors who, were not hon­or­ing terms agreed at time of the sale of farm land to the com­pa­nies. They said that they (local) were promised employ­ment on farms but they (investors) did not ful­fill the promise. Instead of cul­ti­vat­ing the food crop with the involve­ment of locals, the con­trac­tor sub­con­tracted land to some­one else who planted fod­der with the help of con­tract labor brought from areas out­side the province.

Pros and cons of cor­po­rate farm­ing Fed­eral min­is­ter of invest­ment Waqar Ahmad Khan out­lin­ing his plan said that in our coun­try 28 mil­lion acres of land is bar­ren, with the help of for­eign  investors, we can con­vert the mil­lions of bar­ren acres into cul­ti­vated land, which will pro­vide the job oppor­tu­nity to thou­sands of peo­ple as well as increase the country’s GDP. He fur­ther said that the gov­ern­ment would pro­vide exemp­tion from taxes and dif­fer­ent levies to the for­eign investors, that the gov­ern­ment would install 100,000 strong secu­rity forces to ensure secure envi­ron­ment at farm land. He said that in the new invest­ment pol­icy, for­eign investors inter­ested in Pak­istani farm­land have bound 50 per­cent part­ner­ship with Pak­istani farm­ers.

He said that the agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity can get a major boost if suf­fi­cient com­pa­nies are facil­i­tated to start busi­ness by inject­ing cap­i­tal and intro­duc­ing mod­ern man­age­ment and tech­nolo­gies.

Our peo­ple have dis­played great poten­tial in adapt­ing to smart busi­ness prac­tices, he fur­ther added.

“As food prices sky­rock­eted over the last two years, coun­tries and state-sponsored com­pa­nies were qui­etly snap­ping up land around the world,” says Abdul Khaliq in an arti­cle titled ‘Pak­istan offers one mil­lion acres of agri­cul­ture land to Arab mon­archs, Cor­po­rate farm­ing to lock up scarce water resources in Agri­belts.’ “Few noticed when South Korea began invest­ing in farms in Mada­gas­car, or when China, Japan, Libya, Egypt, and Per­sian Gulf coun­tries acquired farm­lands in Laos, Cam­bo­dia, Burma, Mozam­bique, Uganda, Ethiopia, Brazil, Pak­istan, Cen­tral Asia, and Rus­sia. The pur­chases weren’t about land, but water. For with the land comes the right to with­draw the water linked to it. And, because this water has no price, the investors can take it over vir­tu­ally for free. Their lusty rush­ing to lock up scarce water resources in agri­cul­tural belts is nonethe­less dis­turb­ing,” he asserts fur­ther.

“Most con­spic­u­ous aspect of this pol­icy is the absence of labor laws; gov­ern­ment has assured investors that labor laws will not be applic­a­ble to Cor­po­rate Agri­cul­ture Com­pa­nies, which is a clear vio­la­tion of Human and Labor rights. It is also per­ti­nent to men­tion that there will be no cus­tom duty and sales tax on import of agri­cul­tural machin­ery, equip­ment, mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant decrease in tax col­lec­tion. Div­i­dends from cor­po­rate agri­cul­ture farms are also not sub­ject to tax while remit­tance of 100 per­cent cap­i­tal and prof­its are allowed. There will be no upper ceil­ing on land hold­ing. This ‘grand’ pack­age of incen­tives projects a nefar­i­ous pro­posal by the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan to cor­po­rate com­pa­nies for re-colonizing the coun­try,” he com­pletes.

Rehmat ullah Javed

Rehmat ullah Javed

“Emi­rates Invest­ment Group is in the process of acquir­ing farm­land in Pak­istan to export more food to the Gulf region,” said Rehmat ullah Javed, Chair­man stand­ing com­mit­tee of FPCCI on SMEs. “Instead of sell­ing land it would be bet­ter to sell its yield to the peo­ple in the Gulf Region. Appar­ently the deci­sion is a con­tin­u­a­tion of pri­va­ti­za­tion process, sim­i­lar to sell­ing shares of PTCL, banks and other state enter­prises or attract­ing for­eign invest­ment,” he added.”But if it is seen in depth and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive this can have seri­ous reper­cus­sions in the future.”

Sell­ing six mil­lion acres of farm­land does mean in effect that we are invit­ing multi-national colonists back to our coun­try once again. It can cre­ate secu­rity risk for the coun­try and the deci­sion to offer farm­land to for­eign­ers lacks vision and fore­sight, espe­cially since the only draw is short-term gains at the cost of sell­ing the home­land. “The deci­sion is a con­tin­u­a­tion of pri­va­ti­za­tion process sim­i­lar to sell­ing shares of state-owned insti­tu­tions to attract direct for­eign invest­ments,” said Mian Abu Zar Shad, for­mer Chair­man PIAF, “but if seen in depth and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, sell­ing six mil­lion acres of farm­land means once again invit­ing East India Com­pany to our coun­try.”

Mian Abu Zar Shad Former Chairman PIAF

Mian Abu Zar Shad For­mer Chair­man PIAF

“It is due to the sale of Kash­mir to the Dogra Maharaja that Kash­miris were deprived of free­dom,” he con­tin­ued fur­ther, “despite the fact that the State of Jammu and Kash­mir had an over­whelm­ing major­ity of Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in 1846 when the Amrit­sar Treaty was signed and it had 95 per­cent Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in 1947 and there was no rea­son as to why it should not become part of Pak­istan. Despite the fact Jammu and Kash­mir was clos­est to the area which was declared Pak­istan in 1947, but due to the Maharaja Hari Singh’s dis­hon­est act Kash­miris could not reap the fruits of free­dom. Sell­ing of our farm­lands is in fact sell­ing of our home­land. It can cre­ate secu­rity risks for the coun­try,” he explained.

“As Emi­rates Group is look­ing for an inter­na­tional part­ner and total land avail­able for sale is six mil­lion acres, as such, our ene­mies can man­age to become part­ners or indi­vid­ual buy­ers directly or indi­rectly. His­tory has recorded the biggest blun­der of Pales­tini­ans when they sold land to Jews and grad­u­ally rich Jews took over their home­land and Israel appeared on the world map. The author­i­ties are requested to kindly read the his­tory and see how Israel man­aged to cap­ture the land of Pales­tini­ans and appeared as an inde­pen­dent coun­try on the world map. Pales­tini­ans are the vic­tims of their own mis­takes and Israeli has become per­ma­nent pain in the neck, “he com­pleted.

“The deci­sion to sell six mil­lion acres of farm­land can prove extremely dan­ger­ous in the long run,” said Ibrahim Mughal, Chair­man Agri forum Pak­istan.

“Pak­istan allowed some for­eign­ers in tribal areas to fight against Rus­sia and these for­eign­ers were allowed to reside in these areas with­out proper immi­gra­tion doc­u­ments and pass­ports, as a result these for­eign ele­ments have become the great­est threat for the coun­try and our gov­ern­ment has failed to send them back to their native coun­tries.

These so-called Mujahideen occu­pied some area of our tribal region (less than one mil­lion acres) and despite the Drone attacks, both USA and Pak­istan have failed to get rid of these peo­ple who are not only a threat to Pak­istan, but for the whole world. By sell­ing six mil­lion acres of land we will intro­duce new type of feu­dal­ism and cre­ate rel­a­tive depri­va­tion in the area which can spoil the future of our com­ing gen­er­a­tions, who are already vic­tims of our short-sightedness. Pun­dit Nehru, the first Prime Min­is­ter of India, intro­duced land reforms in India and feu­dal­ism was buried once and for all and total land divided among land­less farm­ers. There are many other options avail­able to us if we want to uti­lize this land and some of these are: instead of sell­ing the farm­land out­right, the gov­ern­ment can offer to lease it, sec­ondly, the farm­land should be offered to domes­tic investors first. What’s wrong with offer­ing the same incen­tives and sub­si­dies to local farm­ers? Thirdly, gov­ern­ment may dis­trib­ute this land among land­less farm­ers and help them to cul­ti­vate the same. For the uti­liza­tion of such land the gov­ern­ment should pre­fer local investors and poor land­less farm­ers and sup­port them in cul­ti­va­tion of land to increase our GDP and per capita income. Finally, gov­ern­ment can eas­ily assess the pop­u­la­tion growth in the coun­try in com­ing years. Our coun­try would need more and more cul­ti­vated area to feed our own pop­u­la­tion, rather than feed­ing other nations!”

Dr Murtaza Mughal Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW).

Dr Mur­taza Mughal Pak­istan Econ­omy Watch (PEW).

“Agri­cul­ture is the biggest sec­tor of the econ­omy,” said Dr Mur­taza Mughal, Pak­istan Econ­omy Watch (PEW). “It is under seri­ous threat as grad­ual sale and lease of large tracts of lands to for­eign­ers is being car­ried out in a very quick and secre­tive man­ner. Mil­lions of farm­ers will become job­less while thou­sands of acres of fer­tile land will become bar­ren because the cor­po­rate farms would be given pref­er­ence in pro­vi­sion of canal water, seed, pes­ti­cides, fer­til­iz­ers and other inputs. The idea of cor­po­rate farm­ing has evoked more fears than hopes. Many think that cor­po­rate farm­ing will have neg­a­tive impact on rural liveli­hood and will trans­form Pak­istan into a more unequal coun­try. Despite oppo­si­tion, some impor­tant per­sons seem deter­mined to allow for­eign­ers to own an unlim­ited amount of land in any part of Pak­istan,” he said fur­ther.

Indus­trial pri­va­ti­za­tion was car­ried out to retire the debt. In the process we lost many prof­itable units and the coun­try was pushed to brink of bank­ruptcy. Now fer­tile lands are being pri­va­tized in the name of tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment and attract­ing for­eign invest­ments. For­eign­ers have only one thing in mind while invest­ing out­side their coun­try, to gain max­i­mum in min­i­mum of time and leave.”Wealthy coun­tries have con­trolled global trade, now they are eye­ing over one tril­lion dol­lar agri­cul­tural out­put of under­de­vel­oped coun­tries,” said Dr Mur­taza Mughal. “Rich coun­tries have already bought large farms in many coun­tries like Congo, Sudan, Zam­bia, Myan­mar, Laos, Uganda, Cam­bo­dia, Mozam­bique, Mada­gas­car, Ethiopia, Angola, Nige­ria, Tan­za­nia, Brazil and Cen­tral Asia. They are expand­ing and attract­ing unrest and riots. It seems that now it is our turn. Cor­po­rate farm­ing will push some cul­ti­va­tors to com­mit sui­cide while oth­ers may pre­fer crimes. A good num­ber may develop extrem­ist ten­den­cies that will have a heavy polit­i­cal price.”

“I am sur­prised at the media — why are they silent on this issue of national impor­tance? The issue must be dis­cussed in the par­lia­ment before mak­ing any deals with any for­eign groups,” he fur­ther added.

If the author­i­ties are bent upon cor­po­ra­tiz­ing farm­lands then it would be bet­ter to lease it so that Pak­istan has the right in par­lia­ment before imple­men­ta­tion.

There are many other options to uti­lize the land, instead of sell­ing, the gov­ern­ment should offer such land on five, ten, or 15 – 30 year lease, sec­ondly, the farm­lands should be offered to domes­tic investors on com­par­a­tively eas­ier terms and thirdly the gov­ern­ment may dis­trib­ute this land among land­less farm­ers and help them to cul­ti­vate the same.

Ahmed Humayun is Bureau Chief Value TV

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the print edi­tion of Val­uemag, July 2009, issue 12

Graphix and lay­out by Muham­mad Asif, Pho­tos by GM Shah

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