The Conversation | 11 October 2016
by Kerstin Nolte and Wytske Chamberlain
A man stands by seedlings at the Sierra Leone plantation of Luxembourg-based firm, Socfin. (Photo: Reuters)
In 2007, a spike in commodity prices triggered a sudden increase in demand for agricultural land across the world. It was believed that commercial investors in the Global North speculated on a rise in land and commodity prices. And governments aimed to ensure food security without dependence on the volatile world commodity market by buying up land, largely in the Global South. Now, almost ten years have after the term “land grabbing” first entered the popular imagination, large-scale land acquisitions remain shrouded in secrecy.
The Land Matrix Initiative aims to shine some light in the deals by providing open access to information on intended, concluded, and failed land acquisitions that have taken place since the year 2000. Over recent years, both the quality and the quantity of the data have improved considerably. This led us to take a fresh look at the current trends in international large-scale land acquisitions. The start of production. The Land Matrix records more than 1,000 deals covering 26.7 million hectares of contracted land, equal to about 2% of the arable land on Earth.
Most of these deals cultivate pure food crops, and crops that have multiple uses, such as oil seeds. Palm oil is the single most important crop driving large-scale land acquisitions.