(HN, September 8, 2011) - Millions of dollars worth of Libyan land purchases from Ukraine to Mali are up in the air now that the Government of Colonel Gadaffi has crumbled.
Importing food is essential for Libya - almost all its food needs, including wheat and flour, is brought in to feed its 5.3 million people.
In May 2008, during a state visit to Kyiv, Gadaffi gave Ukraine an oil and gas contract in exchange for 247.000 ha of Ukrainian land to produce its own food.
A few years ago, according to Michael Muleba, Executive Director, Farmer Organisation Support Programme, Libya acquired control of 100.000 ha in the office du Niger, Mali’s main rice producing area. As part of the deal, Libya agreed to improve local infrastructure including enlarging canal and improving a road. But when it came to awarding these contracts and to finding a supplier of rice seeds, local firms were snubbed in favor of Chinese and Libyan ones.
Aside from Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea that have sought farmland abroad to guarantee food supplies and cut dependence on imports.
Africa is a prime target for foreign land grabs. Muleda describes various ways including: land purchases, long term leases, and large investments in existing farms as well as barter-type principles. The collective GRAIN argues that while African governments proclaim their commitments to food self-sufficiency, behind the backs of their people they are signing an alarming number of deals with foreign investors that give these investors control over their countries’ most important agricultural lands, including rice lands.
However, now that Gadaffi is gone, there is speculation that some of the deals may not stand up.
Even the Ukraine deal ran into trouble shortly after it was negotiated by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is now being prosecuted for alleged corruption. After a visit to Tripoli in 2009 she defended the deal, saying "Libya is a bridge to African countries. Africa can be a great consumer of Ukrainian grain and food. We worked out a draft agreement which is to be signed."
- HUMNEWS staff