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Is there any reliable evidence to suggest that China is buying large quantities of farming land in other countries?

Furthermore is there any evidence if the above is true that the quantities they are buying in will cause food supply problems for those countries, whether this be minor or major?

Finally, is there any evidence this has been commissioned at a government level or are these just investors looking for opportunities for a product they see as a valuable asset in their country?

Here are some example headlines:

  • Chinese government quietly buying arable land abroad
  • Shocked Investor: Chinese Are Snapping Agricultural Land in Canada
  • Australian farms up for grabs - China's Government buyers
  • Agricultural land can't be moved. If countries are facing problem, they can simply nationalise and redistribute them. Oil on the other hand is a different ballgame. – apoorv020 Apr 20 '11 at 9:06
  • @apoorv020 Not true. Agricultural land needs constant maintenance and mineral resources in the ground can be exploited. Unmaintained land can be turned into forests if left alone and bad maintenance can lead to increased soil erosion which can remove fertile layer of the ground. For example take a look at this article about USA dust storms of 1930s where erosion played significant role – AndrejaKo Apr 20 '11 at 16:46
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The position is very difficult to identify. UNCTAD published a major study a couple of years ago called Transnational Corporations, Agricultural Production and Development as part of its World Investment Report 2009.

In it, Figure III.13 suggested that China had the third highest outward foreign direct investment stock in agriculture (after the USA and Canada and well ahead of Japan). This has probably grown since then.

The rest of the report discusses different forms of investment and potential consequences. One of the conclusions was

In recent years, an increasing number of food importing countries have started pursuing a strategy of overseas agricultural production to secure food supply at home. Such strategies can contribute to creating value and generating export revenues in the host countries, but they can also have negative consequences for food supply in the exporting country, including depriving local farmers of land. However, a win-win situation can emerge if the institutional arrangements are carefully designed, and if the legislative framework and investment contracts ensure a fair sharing of the benefits between host countries and foreign investors.

Another point made by UNCTAD is that many of the positive effects of such investment can be achieved through other means such as free trade and contract farming.

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