An Observer investigation reveals how rich countries faced by a global food shortage now farm an area double the size of the UK to guarantee supplies for their citizens.
China, with its 1.3 billion people, consumes 20% of the world’s food supply, and only have 9% of the world’s farmland. So where does China get a large share of their agricultural products today? From exploding watermelons to cadmium-tainted rice, both the result of excessive fertilization, domestic food scandals have made foreign-grown foods more popular in China. Motivated by the search for big expanses of land with abundant supplies of clean water, Chinese are looking far afield — to the United States, Chile, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Australia. When China’s largest pork producer, Shuanghui International Holdings, last year paid $4.7 billon for its U.S. counterpart, Smithfield Foods Inc., it also acquired more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Missouri, Texas and North Carolina.
In Africa, in countries like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with 2.8 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations. Local people are still going hungry and many have been moved off their small farms to make way for big plantations. According to Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia, “These agreements do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs”.