Madagascar: Half of country’s arable land leased to South Korea for 99 years (Financial Times, BBC)

| November 24, 2008

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A South Korean company has leased 1.3 million hectares of farmland in Madagascar – about half of the country’s arable land. The company, Daewoo Logistics, plans to grow maize and palm – for palm oil – on the land, for shipment back to South Korea.
According to the London, England-based Financial Times, Daewoo Logistics says it has an agreement with the Malagasy government to lease the land at no cost. In return, Madagascar would gain employment opportunities. The period of the lease is 99 years.

The governments of Angola and Ethiopia have expressed an interest in following suit. Angola has offered farmland for development, while Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has said he is eager to see foreign companies invest in his country’s agricultural land.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned this year that the race by some countries to secure overseas farmland risks creating a “neo-colonial” system. Concepcíon Calpe is a senior economist for the FAO. She says Daewoo Logistics’s move comes on the heels of this year’s food crisis and reflects the interest of countries to improve their food security by buying or leasing foreign land.

South Korea is a heavily populated but resource-poor nation. It is the world’s fourth-largest importer of maize and one of the top-10 importers of soybeans.

More details are available in this Financial Times article: