Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Land grabs for biofuels on bigger scale than thought - report

 apologies for cross-posting

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: {Agrofuels EU} Land grabs for biofuels on bigger scale than thought - report
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 15:57:04 +0100
From: Robbie Blake <>
Organisation: Friends of the Earth Europe
To: <>,,

Dear agrofuels colleagues

I've just come across a report with some quite significant new findings about agrofuels and land grabs.

The report is by the International Land Coalition (which includes IIED, IFAD and others) - in what they call the "biggest study of large land deals to date".

It shows that the majority of global land grabs are for biofuels - not, as previously thought, from food deals for Gulf states etc.  This strikes me as a new and significant finding.  Previous estimates had been around 21-35% biofuel-related land grabs (from the World Bank in 2010).  This report suggests it's more like 60% globally, and in Africa 66% of land grabs are for biofuels.

"Food is not the main focus of the land deals. Out of the 71 million hectares in deals that the authors could cross-reference, 22% was for mining, tourism, industry and forestry and three-quarters of the remaining 78% for agricultural production was for biofuels."

"The relatively high proportion of land being acquired for biofuels is particularly striking, considering the displacement of real or potential food production on these lands. This also reflects the expected profitability of biofuels."

Key findings and quotes:
  • Documents 200 million hectares of land deals between 2000-2010
  • Of these, deals for 71 million hectares have so far been triangulated and cross-referenced, confirming the unprecedented scale of the land rush over the past decade. Very many other deals must be presumed to go unreported.
  • National elites play a much larger role in land acquisitions than has been noted to date by media reports that have focused on foreign investors
  • “There is little in our findings to suggest that the term ‘land grabbing’ is not widely deserved”
  • The land rush is not only about food and farmland. Of cross-referenced deals (71 million hectares) for which the commodity is known, 78% are for agricultural production, of which three-quarters are for biofuels. Mineral extraction, industry, tourism, and forest conversions are also significant contributors, adding up to the remaining 22%.
  • Cross-referenced data from the Land Matrix show that in fact the highest demand for land comes from biofuel production, comprising 40% of the area acquired where the commodity is known. In comparison, 25% of cross-referenced deals are for the production of food crops,  3% for livestock production, and 5% for other non-food crops. Farm production therefore accounts for 73% of cross-referenced acquisitions, while forestry and carbon sequestration, mineral extraction, industry, and tourism account for a combined 27% of land acquired.
  • The focus of land acquirers is slightly different in different regions. In Africa, 66% of cross-referenced acquisitions are for biofuel production (compared with 15% for food
    crops), whereas food crops tend to be more important in Latin America (27%), as does mineral extraction (23%).
  • 37.2 m ha of land deals were for biofuels; 11.3 m ha for food crops, and 8.2 m ha for forestry globally.
  • 18.8 m ha of land deals in Africa were for biofuels, with 4.3m ha for food crops.
  • Demand for biofuels is being driven by rising fuel consumption and oil prices, combined with growing concerns about limiting dependence on imported oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuels. For example, the EU’s renewable fuels target requires that 10% of transport fuels be supplied by renewables by 2020, with the expectation that 80–90% of this target is likely to be met by biofuels. European companies have responded with widespread investments in biofuel production both inside and outside of Europe (Cotula 2011a; Ravanera and Gorra 2011). The Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency estimates that 20–30 million hectares will be required for the EU to meet its target, with 60% of supplies imported. Biofuels appear to be a key driver in several of the ILC case studies. In one example, palm oil production projects for biodiesel in the Peruvian forest already account for 52,829 hectares, and this is planned to expand to 307,329 hectares in the short to medium term (Wiener Bravo 2011). 
  • In Ghana, over one million hectares of community lands have been leased by chiefs to 17 different biofuels developments

[You might be amused to see that this comes one day after Biofuels Digest admitted that land grabbing is a problem, and that "Concerns over land grabbing contribute mightily towards the strangling of capital and the closure or downstream markets for biofuels."  ;-) ]

Many thanks,


--  Robbie Blake Agrofuels Campaigner  Friends of the Earth Europe Rue d’Edimbourg 26, 1050 Brussels, Belgium Email: Tel: (+32) (0)2 893 1017 Skype: robbie.foee  

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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