In The Global Food Crisis - A Perfect Storm, I outlined some causes of the global food crisis. One of them was the struggle for arable land, either through the increase 'need for food' to feed the increasing world population, and the decrease of available land through climate change and desertification.
Already several years ago, the "food crisis" alarm bells started ringing fearing the world is running out of fertile land.
Back in 2005, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison combined satellite images with agricultural data from every country in the world to create detailed maps of global land use. The maps showed roughly 40% of our planet was used for either growing crops or grazing cattle. By comparison, only 7% of the world's land was being used for agriculture in 1700. The research indicates that there is now little room for further agricultural expansion. (Full)
Amplified by the current food crisis, food-deficit countries (countries that can not produce sufficient food for their own production), are now looking beyond their borders for fertile or arable land, so they can grow their own crops abroad:
China has been eying leasing land in Russia (Full), and buying in Africa, Latin America, Cuba and Australia (Full)
Also Libya - eye-ing land in the Ukraine - and Saudi Arabia are scouting for arable land. (Full)
The United Arab Emirates is preparing to launch a large-scale agricultural project in Sudan to develop more than 70,000 acres of land to secure food supplies. Sudan has about 100 million acres of arable land, of which only 20 million is being utilised. (Full). Somewhere that begs to wonder why Sudan is still so dependent on food aid, but that is another question...
Makes you wonder if fertile land will soon become a precious commodity. My prediction is that soon, international land brokers will play on this market, fueled by the food crisis, and the prices of foreign fertile land will spiral up.
Somewhere I look at this with argus eyes: at what point will poorer countries give up their own land -and their own food production- for the short term cash gain in sales or leases of the little fertile land they have, to the decrement of their own food security?
Who - in the end - will be the winners and who will be the loosers in this battle for fertile land?
More articles on The Road about the global food crisis