Food inflation, land grabs spur Latin America to restrict foreign ownership: Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay seek to control food security by rebuffing land-buyers from Europe and Asia. Already in Uruguay, an area the size of Denmark sits in foreign hands.
Andrew Downie, Christian Scientist Monitor, 6 May 2011
São Paulo, Brazil
One of the first things passengers see when disembarking at Cuiaba airport in central Brazil is a real estate advertisement promoting arable land to foreigners…
Such advertisements may soon be preaching to an empty audience, however, as this and other South American nations that traditionally welcomed foreign investors are now changing land laws to restrict foreign ownership as arable areas worldwide become more sought after, a fact underlined by recent food crises. For lawmakers in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, a nation where an estimated 25 percent of all land (an area the size of Denmark) already sits in foreign hands, it isn't a moment too soon to roll back the welcome mat…
Newly concerned over land grabs and eager to exercise more control over its food security, Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said April 27 she would send a bill to Congress restricting how much land foreigners can buy or own. Uruguay fears that nations such as China and Saudi Arabia want to buy prime real estate and has promised to clamp down. Brazil, the world's biggest producer or exporter of beef, coffee, sugar cane, orange juice, and tobacco, last year blocked foreign companies based in Brazil from purchasing additional local real estate.
"What is happening more and more frequently is that countries ... are interested in buying in the parts of the world where the food, water, and energy are," says Jorge Saravia, an Uruguayan senator charged with helping pass new legislation.
But please continue on your way, and ignore the man behind the curtain. The economy is improving and everything will be just fine.