Sunday, March 8, 2009

Globalisation on the march eating up Australian farms


A SPECIAL investigation by Tracey Spicer of the Daily Telegraph (March 07, 2009) has revealed the stark reality of globalisation, but without pointing to the big issue itself. Spicer points out something that might shock the 'average Australian' who uses television as their only means of information: Hasan Mohammad Bin Laden - one of Osama's brothers - is the head of the Middle-East Foodstuff Consortium and is eyeing off millions of hectares of farmland around the world to use as Saudi Arabia's "rice barn" and next on his hit list is Australia! Shock horror Tracey, welcome to the global economy.
Spicer reveals Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait want to buy buy more than $1 billion worth of Aussie farmland in a 21st century land grab. "Their mission is to own Australian cropping land to feed their own people. The big legal question is: Who owns what if there is a global food crisis?" "Everyone knows it's been going on," Suzanne Laing from the Australian Grain Growers Association said. "But we don't want to make any political comment."
Spicer's report notes that the National Farmers Federation supports the sell off. "We have no concerns at all," NFF president David Crombie said. "Foreigners bring in new dollars; it's good for Australian agriculture."
But Crombie and the NFF say it's all about 'free trade'. What they don't tell us is that its trade controlled by a global bureaucracy called the World Trade Organisation and a few global corporations like Monsanto, who admit they want total control of the world food supply.
Spicer tells us China is the most aggressive foreign land buyer, acquiring two million hectares overseas since 2007. But Spicer doesn't mention the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement, which virtually allows a Chinese takeover of Australia.
Spicer goes on to quote an anonymous staff member of Coffey International, one of the firms facilitating the deals. This person says 'foreign companies have been covertly buying up adjacent farms in Australia for the past year. Most are under the $100 million mark, so they don't have to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board'.
Spicer goes on to report that GRAIN, 'an international sustainable-agriculture group', as identifying at least five global firms acting on behalf of their governments who are trying to buy or lease Australian farms. They are China's Suntime International Techno-Economic Co-operation Group, India's Ministry of External Affairs, Abu Dhabi's Al Qudra Holding, the Qatar Company for Meat and Livestock Trading (Mawashi) and the Bahraini company TRAFCO. A fortnight ago, Australia's biggest beef cattle company, AAco, sold a $67.4 million stake to a foodstuffs conglomerate from the United Arab Emirates.
The report also refers the sale of the rights to a 550 million-tonne mine run by the Shenhua Energy Company near Gunnedah in north-west NSW.
And surprise, surprise, 'the UN and World Bank cautiously supported this trend - until they realised offshore farms are all about locking up food supplies, not helping the local farmers'.
Spicer also quotes a former UN environmental bureaucrat Lester Brown who now runs the Earth Policy Institute. Brown talks of the 'dangerous politics of food scarcity' and 'neo-colonialism'. Brown is right on the mark there, despite his role in promoting globalisation through environmental scare-mongering.
The report continues: "Strong increases in food prices and land scarcity are driving the corporatisation of Australian farms," said Audrey Riddell from market research firm IBISWorld.
So what happens in the event of a food shortage and subsequent riots, similar to those seen last year in Haiti?
"The international corporations have all the rights of a property owner," said lawyer Stephen Keim SC. "They can decide to whom they sell their food."
The report confirms the Federal Government's support for selling of land to foreign corporations: "Australia has a well-developed set of guidelines against which particular foreign investments are screened," the Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke said. "Outside of those guidelines, there are no plans to further restrict when and to whom farmers sell their own properties."

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