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Land Grabbing, by Stefano Liberti


We live in an era in which 3D printers can spit out meals, and perfectly formed aubergines are grown by the ton in computerised greenhouses in distant lands. Genetics gave us the green revolution and hearty hybrid cereals. The jet age provided the year-round vine-ripened tomato, tasteless though it may be. The internet yielded online merchants with sophisticated logistics hubs that bundle, bag and deliver it to our kitchens with minimum fuss. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/28115dc8-47a6-11e3-b1c4-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2kRGfP8fW

Yet for all the advances in the business of food, the central fact of our age is that we by and large still need land to grow our maize and graze our cattle. Which is why – spying both vulnerability and opportunity – governments and corporations set about buying up acreage around the globe in the wake of the 2007-08 food price crisis.


The resulting, and continuing, land grab is the subject of this book by Stefano Liberti, first published in Italian in 2011 and newly translated into English. It is built around a rollicking global tour of our food chain, from “the most avant-garde industrial farm in all of Africa” (in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley) to Latin America’s “united republic of soya” and the ethanol-obsessed US farm state of Iowa. Along the way we meet landowners, displaced local people and a young Chicago trader who, even as basic commodities such as wheat record daily highs, informs Liberti that he knows where the real money is to be made.


“Right now primary goods are on the boil, but this won’t last forever,” he declares. “It’s a heck of a lot safer and more lucrative to invest in land.”


In the course of his tour, Liberti asks a multitude of difficult questions. Is it right that impoverished African governments are falling over each other to offer land cheaply – and even for free – to Saudi sheikhs and Dutch agronomists who export everything they grow to the rich world? Can anything other than politics justify the boom in US ethanol production? Should we allow five big commodities trading houses to dominate the market in certain grains? Or sharp-suited financial investors to buy up land in search of outsize returns?

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Tratto da www.ft.com