Big business launches European land grab

Published on 18 April 2013 at 11:36

“Vast tracts of land in Europe are being ‘grabbed’ by large companies, speculators, wealthy foreign buyers and pension funds in a similar way to in developing countries,” begins The Guardian outlining the results of a new report into farmland ownership.

Research by several organisations, including the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Via Campesina, suggests that local farmers are being pushed out of the trade in land because of an increase during the last 10 years in acquisitions by “Chinese corporations, Middle Eastern sovereign wealth and hedge funds, as well as Russian oligarchs and giant agribusiness” who are attracted by the large subsidies offered to landowners via the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The daily continues –

Half of all farmland in the EU is now concentrated in the 3 per cent of large farms that are more than 100 hectares (247 acres) in size. In some EU countries, land ownership is as unequal as it is in Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines. [...] Chinese companies have moved into Bulgaria on a large scale and Middle Eastern companies are now major producers in Romania. […] The concentration of land ownership is speeding up. In Germany, 1.2m land holdings in 1966-67 shrank to just 299,100 farms by 2010. […] In Andalusia, Spain, the number of farms has dropped by more than two-thirds to under 1m in 2007. In 2010, 2 per cent of landowners owned half of the land.

The Guardian says that the report suggests that —

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as in many developing countries, there is strong opposition to land ‘grabbing’ in Europe. There have been reports of communities occupying land. In Andalusia, landless farmers are occupying land collectively and cultivating it. In Vienna, young people are squatting on fertile urban land.

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