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Is Santos Selling Out his People?

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Touch the Soil News #716 (feature photo – Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos – CC SA 3.0 Brazil) Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is leading his country into what could well be the largest farmland transaction in human history. Santos has been accused of leading one of the most corrupt regimes in Africa by ignoring the economic and social needs of Angola. Santos is also accused of focusing his efforts on amassing wealth for his family and silencing his opposition. While Santos occupies the Presidency of Angola, corrupt regimes usually engage many people who have simply learned and adopted corruption from their predecessors. Angola sits along the West…

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Billion Dollar Checkbooks Still Buying Farmland

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Touch the Soil News #705 (feature photo – Ethiopian women picking beans – source, Executive office of the President of the U.S. 2005) The Australian Government recently released the latest statistics about who is buying Australian Farmland. As of the 2015-2016 farming year, foreign investment in Australian farmland hit $4.6 billion, up from $2.5 billion the year before. It is interesting to see where the foreign buyers were coming from. The top four buyers were: American investors bought $1.3 billion in Australian farmland Chinese investors bought $996 million in Australian farmland U.K investors bought $338 million in Australian farmland Canadian investors bought $240 million in Australian farmland   So how…

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Are Pension Funds Driving Food and Social Disorder?

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Touch the Soil News #678 (feature photo – protestors at TIAA, New York -Brandon Wu, ActionAid) TIAA, one of the world’s largest pension fund companies is trying to find an investment home for almost $900 billion dollars. Popularly known as the “teacher” pension company, TIAA is being accused of keeping its books closed to outsiders on its farmland investments. Last week (April 20, 2017) protestors outside of TIAA’s New York Offices delivered a letter to the company with over 100,000 signatures. TIAA is being accused of financing farm acquisitions in third-world nations (such as Brazil). Allegations are that the farmlands being purchased by TIAA were taken by local officials who…

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The Cyclops of Farms Rears Its Head

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Touch the Soil News #538 (feature photo a Cyclops statue in the Natural History Museum of London by Deror Avi) It is difficult to grasp the magnitude of a secretive farm project for which details are often lacking. The size, scope and potential disruption of this project brings to mind the Cyclops of antiquity. The project between the governments of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique – called the ProSavane – has been in the works since 2011. The project plans to mimic a large project in Brazil in which Brazilian agribusinesses will replicate industrial mono-culture farming in Mozambique. Mozambique is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world…

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Chinese Investors Pursue Food of the Gods (Chocolate)

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Touch the Soil News #508 (Feature Photo – Aztec sculpture with cocoa pod) The cocoa bean (or cacao bean) grows on the trunks of the cacao tree. It grows in tropical zones and is processed after harvesting to make cocoa solids and cocoa butter – the basis of chocolate. The cacao tree is native to the Americas and has been cultivated for its bean for almost 5,000 years. Today, 75 percent of the cacao beans are produced in Africa, 15 percent in the Americas and about 10 percent in Oceania. Cocoa beans drying in the sun (photo courtesy of Irene Scott/AusAID). In order to assure a reliable supply of this…

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What Can Be Done About the 90 million Acres?

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Touch the Soil News #505 In the global rush to own farmland, Oxfam recently reported that more than 1,500 land deals sought over the last 16 years now have contracts and their intended projects are getting up and running. The problem is that these land deals cover about 90 million acres and up to 59 percent of the land is claimed by indigenous peoples. Tractors, bulldozers and corrupt local officials are pushing these indigenous people off the land and often into desperation. Local people in East Africa perform a drama illustrating the perils facing many Africans due to foreign land grabs aided by corrupt local officials (photo courtesy of Oxfam).…

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Retirement Funds – Chasing Farmland – Implicated in Corruption and Violence.

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Touch the Soil News #491 Imagine going to the poorer parts of Brazil, a nation unfortunately gripped by corruption (see video below) with million dollar checkbooks to buy farmland. The story regularly repeats itself around the globe as local indigenous officials – intoxicated with the vision of large money – move to deliver the land for which millions of dollars are lined up. As we all know, land is not free and every bit of farmland in the world is occupied by farms or indigenous people. Getting the farmland out of the clutches of the locals has a name in Brazil – “grilagem.” Grilagem denotes using falsification of documents and…

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Investors and the Growing Food Demand

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Touch the Soil News #488 (feature photo CC 2.0) Milltrust International is a global investment management company with headquarters in London and Singapore. They have a special division that deals in agricultural (farmland) investments. The CEO of Milltrust, Simon Hopkins, recently participated in a revealing interview about the growing investments in agricultural assets. Following are some of the highlights of Hopkins’ remarks: This past year saw the birth of the 7th billion person on the planet and the global population is generally expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. According to the scientists, the world is currently sustainable with a population of somewhere between 300 million and 2 billion, depending…

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Is Demand for Food Creating a Financial Frenzy over Farmland?

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Touch the Soil News #484 (feature photo cc-by-sa-2.0) In 2008, while the focus was on the unfolding real estate crisis, another crisis was simultaneously unfolding. Through price shocks on basic grains, about 100 million people (bringing the total to over 900 million) were relegated to the ranks of the hungry almost overnight. Today, with the multitude of global trade agreements in place, one thing about the future cost of food is certain – food will go to the highest bidder in the world. There were shortages of wheat in 2008 in the U.S., as higher international bidders cleaned out the nation’s stocks. The volume of investor dollars looking for farmland,…

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European Union – Our Farm is Not Big Enough

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Touch the Soil News #453 Many nations around the world (and some continents) do not have enough farmland to feed themselves. So whether they import food or try to own farmland overseas, the realization is the same – the homeland farm is not big enough. Friends of the Earth (Europe) recently released a watershed report: The True Cost of Consumption – The EU’s Land Footprint. They wanted to know how much farmland the European Union is short of when it comes to providing food for all of its citizens. Cover of the report. The True Cost of Consumption – The EU’s Land Footprint is the first of its kind in…

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