In order to regulate the growing trend of so-called farmland grabs, the United Nations (UN) has proposed that countries set limits on the size of agriculture land sales through the adoption of voluntary guidelines that will be ratified in May at a special session of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.
Nearly 100 countries have already expressed their consensus about the new rules, which could introduce, for instance, ceilings on permissible land transactions and regulation over how big scale transfers should be approved by the government.
The voluntary code is the first attempt to regulate investment in farmland deals, which often involve rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and South Korea investing in overseas farming in Africa and Latin America to boost their own food security.
Critics believe that such deals are a form of neo-colonialism; on the other hand, supporters argue that investment in farmland could contribute to economic growth in the host countries and improve global food security.
The voluntary guidelines largely support farmland deals, saying that states should “promote and support responsible investments in land, fisheries and forest”.
In 2008, Daewoo Logistics attempted to buy land in Madagascar by signing a 99 years lease for 1.3m hectares, an area half the size of Belgium: the guidelines discourage such larger deals by suggesting that countries should favour “investment models that do not result in the large-scale transfer of tenure rights to investors”.