Hot Global Real Estate: 416 Land-Grab Deals

March 6, 2012
Source: 
Wall Street Journal Market Watch

By Paul B. Farrell

 

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, 416 fabulous real estate deals across the globe. If you’re rich, looking for 25% returns and want to get even richer, start by downloading the 62-page list of 416 land grabs from Grain.org . Yes, 416 large-scale real estate deals in 66 counties, more than 85 million acres, with more coming.

Reminds us of those ever-popular lists of foreclosed properties all over America, with get-rich-quick promises of buying cheap and flipping. You need to check out these 416 real estate investment opportunities now. Get on the inside track of one of the hottest real estate opportunities offered in emerging markets worldwide.

Jump on the world’s hot new land-grabbing trend: Do some research. Who’s making deals? Who’s looking for new partners? A “New 21st-Century Land Rush is On” says Utne magazine’s replay of Terry Allen’s fascinating report In These Times: “Driven by fear and lured by promises of high profits, foreign investors are scooping up vast tracts of farmland in some of the world’s hungriest countries to grow crops for export.”

Here’s the full story about these 416 hot real estate deals. Listen:

Land is the new gold, beats the $600 trillion derivatives market

Yes, you can now get rich grabbing land all over the world. Actually get richer. How? Your partners could include capital-rich sovereign nations, global agribusiness giants, wealthy hedge funds, energy giants, commodity traders, big pension funds, political leaders, even universities like Harvard and Vanderbilt who are into buying, grabbing and leasing hundreds of millions of acres of agriculture land in poor nations. Check out the 62 page list of 416 land grabbing deals.

The “World’s New Land Rush” is hot, raging, everywhere, brighter than gold, hotter than derivatives, pure “mutant capitalism,” as Vanguard's founder Jack Bogle once called the trend. Bill Gates also warned of these excesses of capitalism and the inefficiencies of United Nations food agencies at a recent meeting in Rome, reported in LandGrab.org.

In his foundation’s recent annual letter Gates emphasized his goal of “helping extremely poor people build self-sufficiency” by funding new “agricultural innovation,” and being “more innovative about delivering solutions that already exist to farmers.”

Unfortunately, most agri-innovations are more for the short-term export demands of the new absentee owners, while they undermine “self-sufficiency” for small local farmers. In short, these 416 land grabs are more proof capital-rich nations are actually accelerating the global food crisis.

And, unfortunately, when this trend peaks it will backfire, triggering global class wars predicted by the Pentagon, with both rich and poor losing in widespread revolutions.

Africa For Sale: Rich Chinese, Saudi investors are big players

Capital-rich nations — like China with a trillion plus in reserve U.S. dollars and Saudi megabanks loaded with petrodollars — are getting richer and richer grabbing cheap land from the world’s poor nations, from cultures where more than a billion people live in poverty, on less than two bucks a day, are desperate for food, water and essentials, and are easily duped into selling their nation’s agricultural wealth cheap.

Writing “Africa for Sale” in the Peace and Conflict Monitor, Patrick Mugo Mugo quotes Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute on their “ground-breaking” land grab study: “The land grab phenomenon is being done in the name of modernizing agriculture and expanding African economies, but it cuts out the core natural resources that support African livelihoods for the majority, land and water.”

As a result, after the deals, hundreds of millions of poor people no longer own their own land. Rich capitalists and rich nations do. The poor are selling their wealth, heritage, future and pride; “This huge transfer of natural wealth to outside investors is eroding food security, water security and cultural integrity for local people.”

So why are capital-rich nations like China and the Saudis buying, investing, leasing and hoarding agricultural land beyond their borders, in poor nations? Truth is these 416 land grabs are not simply driven by capitalistic greed, nor by an obsession for higher returns. No, capitalism’s just the oil for this land-grabbing machine.

Big reason: Food. Rich nations fear massive food shortages

Capital-rich nations see a game-changing food crisis dead ahead. They’re predicting global famine and food shortages as out-of-control population growth outpaces scarce resources. So they’re planning ahead. Those 416 land grabs are proof of a long-term strategy. The rich nations know the world’s already running out of food. They also know it’s going to get far worse, very soon, as populations skyrocket.

China: One of the largest sovereign funds, China Investment Corporation has $332 billion. Allen talks about China’s aggressive land grab policies in Utne: “In addition to its interest in Africa, China is investing in diverse cropland in Australia and New Zealand and looking to Indonesia for biofuels and to South America for soy for livestock production to feed its increasingly affluent population’s taste for meat and dairy. China’s South American interests are so extensive that some Brazilians” are “crediting Chinese investment for their booming economy.”

Saudi Arabia: The Saudi sovereign wealth funds are motivated by water problems that severely limit domestic food supplies. Allen says “the sheiks had been watching the writing in the sand since the 1970s … after the Arab oil-export embargo, they realized their vulnerability: Just as the West was dependent on them for oil, they were dependent on others for food.” First they used their oil technology “drilling deep for water.” And with “heavy irrigation, the country soon became self-sufficient in wheat.”

But the Saudi’s plan soon backfired. Their “prehistoric aquifer was almost exhausted.” Then food riots hit in 2007: “Saudi wheat harvest had dropped precipitously.” Now, “the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture predicts that by 2016 the country will have to import 100 percent of the wheat it needs to feed its nearly 26 million people.”

So China, Saudi Arabia and other capital-rich food-poor nations are stockpiling agriculture lands worldwide to feed their future populations, planning for the coming food wars predicted a few years ago when World Bank President Robert Zoellick, warned that “33 countries around the world face potential social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices.”

And still politicians everywhere refuse to discuss policies limiting population growth, refuse to shift from self-destructive economic growth assumptions to no-growth economic policies. The net result: Myopic rich nations just keep searching the world, competing for farmland, driving up prices, grabbing, adding to the list of 416 land grabs.

Robin Hood in reverse: Rob from the poor, give to the rich

The world’s 21st century land rush is a massive reverse Robin Hood scheme. Capital-rich nations are robbing from the poor to give to their rich. They know population growth is out of control, fueling a food crisis. They hope their people will get all the food they want, exported from poor nations that already don’t have enough.

But in the process of minimizing the risk of revolutions at home they will encourage them abroad.

Americans, of course, can’t see this dangerous game any more than we understand the $600 trillion global derivatives market. Instead, we’re lost in our narcissistic election bubble, mesmerized by the Oscars, “American Idol” and other reality shows.

Americans aren’t worried as much about the price of a loaf of bread as a small African subsistence farmer. We have a giant domestic agribusiness, we export, we have 3 acres of farmland per capita, far more than China’s 0.23 acres per capita. And they’ll have to feed 300 million more people by 2050.

Big threats: Class wars accelerating—over food, water, freedom

Historians see this trend as a prescription for revolutions, a ticking time bomb: Arab Spring, OWS, Spain with 50% youth unemployment. Riots in Athens, Moscow, Paris.

Allen warns: “When people are hungry enough, they are likely to choose the risk of revolution over the certainty of starvation.” And nations “unable to secure affordable food for their people are vulnerable to the kind of social unrest that has long been part of history’s hunger not only for food, but also for justice.”

Think of these 416 global land-grab deals as a short fuse burning, about to ignite global contagion, warning the world to wake up and start planning, now, work together. Why? Because by 2050 the United Nations predicts global population will skyrocket from today’s 7 billion to an unsustainable 10 billion.

But then it will be too late to plan. Great wars will be raging over commodity prices, food shortages, less productive agricultural lands, disappearing water supplies, higher energy costs to grow crops, insurmountable constraints.

Amnesia: never learned the lessons of 2008, destined to repeat, soon

Our planet cannot feed 10 billion people, not now, not in 2050. These 416 global land-grabbing deals for capital-rich nations are proof of a massive case of denial.

Several years ago we reported on 20 warnings leading up to the 2008 Crash. Few listened. Why? Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner got it right in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece: Amnesia. We can’t remember. Our brains are incapable of learning history’s great lessons.

Bottom line: Today’s drama reminds me of a major cover story in the Economist back two years before the 2008 global meltdown: “Rising property prices helped to prop up the world economy after the stock market bubble burst in 2000.” Global real estate values increased 75% in five short years, blowing “the biggest bubble in history.”

Well, the bubble’s repeating. Amnesia too. And warnings of an even bigger meltdown. But few will listen.