The rush for land for agriculture: Secretive world of land-buying in foreign countries

The secretive land-buying in foreign countries in the last decade became a major trend that involved governments, private and public companies. According to a report published by the Land Matrix project, the drive for land acquisition is a global trend that already has considerable impacts. The database on which the report is built, the largest of its kind, shows that Africa is the continent mainly targeted. On global scale, land deals since 2000 are reported to affect an area equivalent to more than 1.7 percent of the global agricultural area.

The driving forces behind large-scale land acquisitions include increased global demands for different crops and, at a more fundamental level, expected future demands for water, food and energy. Investor choices about the location of land acquisitions and the types of crops grown are a
reflection of the expectations created by these long-term trends.

Investors from countries that are wealthier and net food importers are acquiring land in poorer countries with high incidences of hunger and weak land governance. Both food and non-food crops are produced, often for export.

Although there is a tendency to acquire land in countries with large reserves of uncultivated land, a closer examination reveals that almost halve of the deals concern areas that are already used for crops. Investors target areas that are easily accessible, have a high yield gap and have considerable population densities. High competition for land with existing users is unavoidable.

Acquisitions are rarely based on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and there is limited but worrying evidence on evictions. Scarce reports on other benefits suggest some infrastructure provision, but provide little evidence on benefits from employment generation.

Large-scale land acquisitions are also partly targeting forested and grazing land, creating tradeoffs with environmental and social goals. There are also indications that water stress may increase as a result of land acquisitions in target countries.

The Land Matrix project is a partnership between the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, the Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the International Land Coalition (ILC). The Land Matrix project systematically collates and seeks to verify information on large-scale land acquisitions. It records transactions that entail a transfer of rights to use, control or own land through sale, lease or concession; that cover 200 hectares (ha) or larger; and that have been concluded since the year 2000. The main sections of the database are available at Read on the same subject: guardian
Some of the big buyers of land are:

Total hectares bought: 5,420,209 (about 13.4 million acres)
Big purchase: 4.9 million acres in Indonesia by Tata Power for agriculture.
Total hectares bought: 5,354,502 (about 13.2 million acres)
Big purchase: 25,000 acres in Cambodia by the Phou Mady Investment Group for forestry.


Total hectares bought: 4,136,973 (about 10.2 million acres)
Big purchase: 900,000 acres in Indonesia by BHP Billiton for agriculture.


Total hectares bought: 3,397,607 (about 8.4 million acres)
Big purchase: 710,000 acres in Indonesia by Sime Darby Berhad for agriculture.
The UK
Total hectares bought: 3,008,472 (about 7.4 million acres)
Big purchase: 1.7 million acres in the Philippines by NRG Chemicals for agriculture.


South Korea
Total hectares bought: 2,696,297 (about 6.7 million acres)
Big purchase: 1 million acres in Cambodia by Kapa Limited for unspecified purposes.


Total hectares bought: 2,614,792 (about 6.5 million acres)
Big purchase: 4.9 million acres in Indonesia by an unknown investor for agriculture.


Total hectares bought: 2,388,000 (about 5.9 million acres)
Big purchase: 4.9 million acres in the Democratic Republic of Congo by an unknown investor for


United Arab Emirates
Total hectares bought: 2,277,856 (about 5.6 million acres)
Big purchase: 4.2 million acres in Sudan by Al Ain National Wildlife for tourism.
Saudi Arabia
Total hectares bought: 2,204,132 (about 5.5 million acres)
Big purchase: 675,000 acres in the Philippines by Eastern Renewable Fuels Corp. for agriculture


Total hectares bought: 1,547,616 (about 3.8 million acres)
Big purchase: 880,000 acres in Indonesia by BHP Billiton Limited for agriculture.
Total hectares bought: 1,434,700 (about 3.5 million acres)
Big purchase: 350,000 acres in Mozambique by Global Solidarity Forest Fund for forestry.
Total hectares bought: 1,329,793 (about 3.3 million acres)
Big purchase: 960,000 acres in Australia by Alberta Investment Management Corp. for forestry.
South Africa
Total hectares bought: 1,231,034 (about 3 million acres)
Big purchase: 870,000 acres in Benin by an unknown investor for agriculture.