miércoles, septiembre 09, 2009

September 2009

An internal document recently posted on the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website reveals that IRRI has been advising Saudi Arabia in the context of its strategy to acquire farm land overseas for its own food production.

According to IRRI's notes of its March 2009 meeting with Saudi government officials, potential countries for Saudi investment in rice production include Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali and southern Brazil. As a result of the meeting, IRRI was invited to identify "research areas that need additional support at IRRI and are relevant to the Saudi overseas initiative, approximate budget, and some directives for investments in overseas rice production."

IRRI also met with private investors involved in the Kingdom's plans for outsourced rice production. One such company, Foras International, informed IRRI of its acquisition of 500,000 ha of farmland in Senegal, 200,000 ha of farmland in Mali and 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of farmland in Sudan to grow rice. According to Reuters, Foras is managing a project, called 7X7, which over a 7-year period aims to produce 7 million tonnes of rice on 700,000 hectares of land, mainly in Senegal and Mail. Mauritania, Uganda, Sudan and Niger have been named as other potential targets. In an email to GRAIN, Foras confirmed that it has already acquired land on the banks of major rivers in Mali and Senegal for this project. IRRI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate with Foras.

For Saudi Arabia, the stakes are high. It is the world's third largest importer of rice and much of its highly coordinated overseas farming plans revolve around this staple grain. Its food import bill is projected to soar to $15 billion this year, up 25% from 2008.

In GRAIN's view, it would seem a matter of time before the international agricultural research establishment would get caught up in these land grabs as they involve huge new investments that offer fresh funding to resolve technical production problems.

IRRI is often considered the world's premier rice research institute and is member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, housed at the World Bank.


Read the full report online at http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=52

For more information, contact Alexis Vaughan at GRAIN: Tel: +44 79 74 39 34 87 (UK) or email alexis@grain.org

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