"Nichts mehr davon, ich bitt euch. Zu essen gebt ihm, zu wohnen.
Habt ihr die Blöße bedeckt, gibt sich die Würde von selbst."
Friedrich Schiller
  May 2008 FOOD

Biofuel Producers in African Land Grab, at the Expense of Food Production

Foreign biofuel companies are buying huge tracts of land in Africa to produce biofuels at the expense of food production, an unapologetic Financial Times reports today.

In Mozambique alone, over the past year, foreign investors bid on 110,000 square kilometers of land, more than one eighth of the country's entire land area! Sun Biofuels of the UK owns plantations in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Mozambique, and in Tanzania alone, they plan to plant no less than 40,000 hectares of land with {jatropha}, a poisonous plant used for biofuels.

Sun Biofuels executive Peter Auge proudly boasts that his company pays their workers $3 a day, calling it "relatively good pay for the area"! Farmers living on the land have been forced off, receiving a "compensation" of no more than $1,000 apiece.

The FT notes that if, in the future, local governments should want to use the land for food production, due to a growing population, this would be very difficult to do. Sun Biofuels is getting the land for free on a 99-year lease! A Swedish company is bidding for 50,000 acres of prime agricultural land to grow sugar cane to use for biofuels. All of this is done hand-in-glove with the EU, which has signed free-trade agreements with some of these countries.

Nonetheless, given the severe food crisis, Tanzanian officials are having second thoughts. It should be noted that Tanzania is home to one of the BAE corruption cases.

Brazil has signed agreements with several African governments for biofuels development, arguing that this is the solution to African unemployment and poverty. But when President Lula da Silva traveled to Africa recently for the UNCTAD conference, he discovered that officials of several nations with which Brazil has agreements, are not enthusiastic about biofuels. One trade union leader from Mozambique told Lula that feeding people and guaranteeing food security is the top priority now, not biofuels development.