"Land grab" specifics

FP Passport picks up the IFPRI report on “Land Grabbing” by foreign investors in developing countries and asks the right question:
Is the investment good or bad for the recipient countries?
I think the FAO gets it broadly right in their own recent report ("Land Grab or Development Opportunity", published June 2009):
Increased investment may bring macro-level benefits (such as GDP growth and improved government revenues), and may create opportunities for economic development and livelihood improvement in rural areas.

But as governments or markets make land available to prospecting investors, large-scale land acquisitions may result in local people losing access to the resources on which they depend for their food security – particularly as some key recipient countries are themselves faced with food security challenges.
My only push is, can we make this more specific? (They probably do in their report - it is 130 pages long - but I haven't read it yet.)

Off the top of my head, one huge positive outcome would be major investment in transportation infrastructure like roads and rail to remote areas of Africa - transportation is a huge friction in the value chain and takes a big chunk out of the value many rural farmers can realize for their products. Private sector infrastructure investment would be nice, but most of these regions are not seen as stable enough to attract it in the short term; country governments lack the money, political will, and/or capability; and the new international food aid paradigm appears more focused on agricultural productivity and seems unlikely to devote major dollars to infrastructure. So if Saudi Arabia or China can build and pay for roads and rails, it will benefit many.

On the other hand, the food security concern is well-founded, particularly because it will bite at the exact same time the "land grabbers" are most determined to export the production (i.e., a food price crisis and market breakdown like 2007/8). Saudi Arabia did not buy 500,000 hectares in Tanzania for the 95% of the time when the grain they desire is readily available on the world food market; they bought the land for the 5% of the time when prices have spiked and trade barriers have risen. Unfortunately, this will be exactly when Tanzanians themselves have food security issues; in this sense, food security is a zero-sum game and the "land grab" investments are neo-colonial in the sense that they appropriate local resources for rich-country consumption in the circumstances where it matters most.

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