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Guidelines For Foreign Land Deals Coming

The World Bank will soon publish guidelines to help investors and countries make cross-border farmland purchases mutually beneficial, a senior World Bank official says.

After last year’s food riots the food supply scare has pushed several countries such as Saudi Arabia and South Korea to buy or lease farmland overseas to feed their own people.

Quickly nicknamed “land grabbing,” this phenomenon has drawn sharp criticism for ignoring interests of local population. Elisabeth Gauffin, vice-president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), has said there is a risk of “second-generation colonialism” in such deals.

The World Bank, a major lender to the developing countries, has been working on a recommendation paper for investors and receiving countries to “avoid pitfalls” in overseas farmland purchases, Juergen Voegele, World Bank’s director for Agriculture and Rural Development told reporters.

“I don’t think it’s a black-and-white issue,” Voegele said after a meeting of farm ministers of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in northern Italy.

“Our position is not to endorse or criticize it, but try to help the countries and investors to get the best benefits out of this,” he said.

The target countries should have clear guidelines on farmland purchases by foreign investors, taking into consideration long-term sustainability issues, such as environmental and social implications of these deals.

Heads of the UN agencies, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have said cross-border farmland deals should boost food security for both parties.

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