WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 – Large-scale agriculture deals funded by U.S. companies in Paraguay, Guatemala, and Colombia are undermining local food security and displacing small-holder farmers, according to a report released Tuesday by the worldwide development organization Oxfam America.
The organization said the report, “Smallholders at Risk,” found that companies and investors including Cargill, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, the Rohatyn Group, Riverstone Holdings, and Carlyle Group, have financed large scale land acquisitions in Latin America to grow mono-crops of soy, oil palm and corn that have pushed out smaller, local farmers.
The report recommended the U.S. government and other participants in the U.N. Committee on World Food Security negotiations in Rome next month to set a global “gold standard” to guide agricultural investment by public and private actors in order to foster sustainable development.
“More and better investment in agriculture is essential to right the wrong of nearly one billion people suffering from hunger,” said Stephanie Burgos, policy advisor for Oxfam and lead author of the report. “But large, loosely regulated deals can end up doing more harm than good without clear rules of the road. Without greater care for how agricultural investments are implemented, poor farmers end up bearing the risk and shouldering the costs rather than reaping the benefits.”
Oxfam said it investigated three deals involving U.S. companies in regions of Paraguay, Guatemala, and Colombia and found the deals had displaced small farm communities and led to further concentration of land in the hands of larger operations, while creating more informal and seasonal jobs. Large-scale monoculture expansion, resulting from these deals, is competing for land with basic food production and undermining access to nutritious food in local markets, according to Oxfam.
Contesting the report, Cargill spokesperson Lisa Clemens said the company’s subsidiary Black River Asset Management has made investments in Colombia aimed at delivering locally grown commodities, such as corn, soybeans, and rice to be sold in the domestic markets, as well as funding improvements in the country’s infrastructure. Clemens said small-holder farmers are not being pushed out, and the land is not “a region where you find small-holder farmers.” Cargill, in a statement, said, “The land is there, but it is not suitable for growing crops on any scale without significant investment to correct the soils and prepare the land.” Clemens said Colombia has 22 million hectares of arable land and currently five million hectares are being used for crops.
Updated 6:50 p.m. April 23, 2014.
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