Neocolonialism?The Financial Times of London has criticized Daewoo Logistics for securing the rights to develop 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of arable land in Madagascar. The newspaper even used the word neocolonialism to describe the actions of the Korean company.
According to the newspaper, some countries exploit poorer countries in the name of food security, and the implicit suggestion is that Korea is now one of those countries.
The newspaper also wrote that the plantations won’t benefit the local people in the African country, because labor from South Africa would be used, according to news reports. Instead, the FT suggested that banks in advanced economies should provide subsidies to poorer countries to help them increase food productivity to ensure a surplus of grain that can be exported.
However, most of the land that Daewoo Logistics wants to lease is entirely undeveloped and the staple food in Madagascar is rice and wheat.
One wonders if cultivating nonarable land and planting maize is really neocolonialism, which would imply forcibly taking food from Madagascar’s people.
What’s more, Madagascar’s government will take 30 percent of the profits made by the maize farm in the form of corporate taxes and tariffs.
It is entirely for Madagascar’s government and people to decide whether to leave this land undeveloped or to sign a 99-year lease with Korea and in return get investment and farming infrastructure.
In any case, Britain’s D1 Oils is already running a large-scale jatropha oil farm in Madagascar for the production of biodiesel. Many French companies own plantations there as well. One wonders why the U.K. newspaper criticizes the Korean company while averting its gaze from European firms involved in the same business.
Korea has been dependent on imported grain for a long time and Daewoo Logistics is simply trying to secure farmland overseas for our survival.
So if this is an act of neocolonialism, what about the European countries and their farms in Africa?
The FT’s suggestion about the role of banks makes a lot of sense. The banks in London should set a good example by lending money to farmers in Madagascar to help develop their agricultural industry.
The FT story reminds us that the world economy is now a harsh and unforgiving place.