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An Asian way to safeguard food security: transnational farmland investment.

IN SEPTEMBER 2013, CHINA REPORTEDLY WAS IN THE PROCESS OF signing an agreement with Ukraine to rent 3 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland to grow food, equivalent to 5 percent of Ukraine's land, which would supply food for China for as long as fifty years. As the transaction would have been China's biggest farmland investment on record, it attracted attention worldwide. Although the report of the agreement was later denied by Ukrainian officials, who stated that all that had been under negotiation was the transfer of irrigation technology from China, the Ukrainian deal would not have been China's only transnational farmland investment. (1) In fact, China started encouraging its "going-out" strategy in 1999; however, the concrete extension of the going-out strategy to the department of agriculture started as late as 2008's "The Medium- and Long-Term Framework Plan for National Food Security (2008-2020)" (Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China 2008). The Framework Plan indicates China needs to strengthen cooperation between governments and establish long and stable relationships in agriculture (oil foodstuffs) cooperation with important grain-growing countries. Therefore, implementing an agricultural going-out strategy, encouraging domestic enterprises to go out, establishing a stable and reliable grain importing system, and enhancing the ability to safeguard domestic food security have become China's new agricultural priorities. Since then, China's overseas farmland investments and trades have flourished. According to the statistics of Land Matrix (Phase II) through March 2016, (2) including the agreement between China and Ukraine mentioned above, China (including Hong Kong) has become the biggest farmland investment country in the world, involving nearly 6.18 million hectares, an equivalent of more than 700 Manhattan Islands, that has become China's foreign agriculture base. Nevertheless, this type of overseas farmland investment does not only exist in China, as other Asian countries are also participating in farmland investment.

The statistics from Land Matrix (Phase II) also show, among the top ten countries (3) acquiring the most overseas farmland from 2000 to 2016, five are in Asia and account for almost half of the global farmland traded. The investigations of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) resulted in the same findings (Rulli, Saviori, and D'Odorico 2013). According to the PNAS research, forty-one countries were involved in transnational farmland investment between 2005 and 2009. However, the top twenty countries among them accounted for 90 percent of the total land deals. Ten of those were Asian countries, including China, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, South Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, and Kazakhstan, accounting for half of the invested lands. In other words, Asian countries contributed to more than half of global farmland investment between 2005 and 2009.

The statistics from GRAIN (4) (2011) further indicate Asian countries in the Middle East (Persian Gulf countries) and developed countries in East Asia (South Korea and Japan) tend to acquire farmland outwardly and unilaterally while, in general, other developing countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia have the dual development characteristics of both acquiring farmland and having their farmland acquired. However, in the process of acquiring and being acquired, GRAIN's report indicated the uses of the farmlands traded have changed over time, from growing cash crops (e.g., coffee or rubber) for economic benefits to growing grain crops (e.g., rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, etc.) to supply food for the investor country. Thus, the changes have resulted in a new trade mode, shifting from extracting agricultural resources on short-term farmland leases to safeguarding the investor country's food security through long-term farmland leases of at least thirty years.

Although the data under investigation are oftentimes criticized for rarely standing up to scrutiny (Brautigam and Zhang 2013; Edelman 2013; Oya 2013), the methodologies for assessing the land deals have gradually been complemented by efforts to systematically ascertain the scope and sequence of the farmland investments (Anseeuw et al. 2012; Anseeuw et al. 2013; Arezki, Deininger, and Selod 2013; GRAIN 2013, 2016; Rulli, Saviori, and D'Odorico 2013). Given that the real world is being reshaped each passing minute, this too is reflected in the progress of data collection approaches, and "the contributions of GRAIN, the Land Matrix and others, despite their limitations, have been substantial and important" (Scoones et al. 2013, 478). These contributions and limitations are both recognized by and carefully applied in this article. However, my purpose is not to join the debates about the methodologies, but rather to identify the general characteristics of these assessment results. That is, investigations of these land deals, at the very least, have uncovered the following three characteristics of the world's most recent transnational farmland investment movement. First, agricultural production has transformed from the previous cash crops into grain crops. Second, farmland lease periods have been substantially prolonged to become long-term rent contracts. Third, most transnational farmland investment phenomena occur in Asian countries.

However, current scholarly explanations for this wave of transnational farmland investments largely draw on the two major analytical approaches of the liberalist view (Carter 2015; Friis and Reenberg 2010; Robertson and Pinstrup-Andersen 2010; Wolford et al. 2013) and the Marxist view (Araghi and Karides 2012; de Schutter 2011; Li 2011; Rosset 2011). The former is skewed toward an international cooperation point of view to explain how transnational farmland investment can spur agricultural development and raise food production. The latter adopts a food sovereignty point of view to oppose any form of transnational farmland investment. Nevertheless, such studies tend to explain the advantages and disadvantages of farmland investment from the host countries' perspectives. When explaining the origins of the mobilization of transnational farmland investment, their analyses overlook the investor countries' viewpoints. That is, current academic papers view the transnational farmland acquisition by Asian countries primarily as a given phenomenon and neglect to probe even deeper issues: What is the current food security situation across Asian countries? What factors have prompted Asian countries to follow one another in joining the transnational farmland investment movement?

At least four factors can explain how and why Asian countries have food security concerns that drive Asian countries to participate in the transnational farmland investment movement. These four factors include (1) the state development model, which follows the developmental state theory, indicating Asian countries strategically sacrifice domestic grain agriculture and acquire global agricultural resources; (5) (2) the recent rapid increase in food demand in Asian countries caused by increased urbanization; (3) an unstable food supply chain that has caused Asian countries to address establishing a reliable global food supply chain; and (4) food safety concerns because Asia's rapid industrialization has resulted in the pollution of domestic agricultural production and the endangerment of domestic food quality. Transnational farmland investment has already become one of the main methods for Asian countries to safeguard food security. As Asian countries have become the major actors in global farmland investment, the post-World War II Western-dominated global food security structure is being challenged.

This article is organized as follows. The next section addresses Asian countries' current food security situation. The following section addresses the causes and cases of Asian countries' participation in transnational farmland investment. The final section includes the study's findings and policy recommendations.

Major Asian Countries' Food Security Status and Transnational Farmland Investment

Food Security Status

Every year since the beginning of 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit has published the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), illustrating the state of global food security. GFSI's investigation covers 109 countries around the world, with twenty-eight investigative indices to illustrate the state of food availability, affordability, and quality and safety in these 109 countries. GFSI indicated that although the Asia Pacific region's overall state of food security appeared to improve each year from 2012 to 2015, the region's investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) appeared to decrease each year. The lower R&D investment has caused the region's sufficiency of food supply to be lower than the global average. Consequently, food availability is generally lower than the global average. In addition, because of the strong influence of rising global food prices on the Asia Pacific region's household consumption behavior, food consumption as a share of the household expenditure index is generally not ideal, causing the region's food affordability index to be generally lower than the global average. That is, because of a lower food availability index, Asia has gradually come to depend on the global food market's supply. However, the global food market's unstable course of events since 2007 has brought about Asia's negative food affordability index, causing Asia's overall GFSI score to be lower than the global average (see Table 1) (Economist Intelligence Unit 2015).

To show the state of major Asian countries' food self-sufficiency rate in greater detail, Table 2 shows findings of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Besides Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, India, and China, other major food-consuming countries' food self-sufficiency rates are all lower than 90 percent. Especially, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have food self-resiliency rates lower than 30 percent. In Table 3, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) data further illustrate that, during the twenty-first century, major food production countries, such as China, Thailand, and India, began to gradually lessen food exports. China has become a cereal net-import country since 2003. Thus, these traditionally food-exporting Asian countries have gradually begun to depend on the global food market's supply. Moreover, other major food-importing Asian countries, for example, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and the Gulf states, have continued to rely on importing food. Particularly, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have further deepened their dependency on food imports.

Transnational Farmland Investment

According to the Land Matrix (Phase II) statistics, (6) from 2000 to 2016, the land area encompassed by concluded overseas farmland investment deals reached 39.45 million hectares globally, among which Asian countries made up 43.19 percent of the investment area. Table 4 and Figure 1 further illustrate Asian countries' investments. East Asian countries prefer to invest in Southeast Asian and African farmland; Southeast Asian countries prefer Pacific, African, and Southeast Asian farmland; Gulf states prefer African farmland; South Asian countries prefer African and Latin American farmland. Thus, geopolitics profoundly influences the investment relationship between investor states and host areas. Investor states seek neighboring countries and relationship-friendly regions as targets for their investments to ship crops back to the mother country conveniently, steadily, and safely. Host states, on the other hand, welcome investor states with similar dietary cultures so they can plant similar crops and share equally the results of the agricultural investment. For example, since 2007, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam have sequentially entered into agreements for agricultural cooperation and farmland investments with China; because of the promises, the Chinese rice seed technologies, production techniques, and training resources would be shared equally with the local communities of the host states.

However, the African continent's agricultural resources have received equal investment attention from every Asian region. Brautigam (2009) posited that China had invested in Africa not to boost overseas rice production and therefore feed the population back home, but to promote its hybrid rice and thus build a profitable business. (7) In fact, China had even pushed certain African nations to adopt rice as the staple food, with the intent of becoming the Monsanto of rice. Friis and Reenberg (2010) and Sassen (2013) found that oil-rich Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan) and populous and capital-rich Asian countries (China, South Korea, Japan, and India) have already become the principal investors in African farmland. In addition, among Africa's top six land sellers (except for Mozambique, whose main investor country is South Africa) all other main investor countries come from Asia. For example, India is a dominant country in terms of size of investments in Ethiopia, as are South Korea in Madagascar, Saudi Arabia in Sudan, China in Mali, and a multinational group in Tanzania. The above investment distributions are also reflected in the Land Matrix (Phase II) statistics. (8) Further, Land Matrix revealed Singapore's investments are more in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon, and Singapore has become a dominant investment country in the DRC.

Hofman and Ho (2012, 15-16) outlined how, emboldened by the going-out policy, numerous Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and small-sized private enterprises had invested in farmland in the Mekong River basin since 2000. Additionally, Thomas (2013) recounted how China's investment in Indonesian and Filipino farmland had been facilitated by and encouraged under the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), signed in 2002 and implemented in 2010. Since crop production from Chinese-owned farmland overseas can be shipped back to China duty-free, China's food security has become increasingly dependent on Southeast Asian farmland over time. In another study, Woertz (2011, 2013a, 2013b) highlighted how the Gulf states had collaborated to establish an agricultural development fund to invest primarily in African farmland. While this strategy has bestowed the Gulf states with direct control of foreign agricultural resources to feed their own citizens, an unintended consequence is that the food security of the Gulf states has become intertwined with said African farmland.

Cotula (2012b, 208) pinpointed the rise of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) since the mid-1990s as the foundation for the development of international laws engendering the recent wave of transnational farmland investment. Essentially, BITs help to create stable and advantageous overseas investment environments and thus offer legal guarantees for companies from investor countries. Such protection constitutes encouragement for companies to invest in BIT-covered overseas marketplaces, leading to transnational farmland investment transactions. According to Cotula, the contents of the recently signed BITs largely comprised tax breaks, low-interest loans, customs preferences, high-level foreign aid and diplomatic support, and assistance through implementation of national strategies (2012b, 209). Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, the number of South-South BITs rose sharply, so much so that they more than kept pace with the number of traditional North-South BITs. As of the end of 2014, over 3,000 BITs had been signed, approximately half of which were South-South BITs. Thus, the Asian countries, typically categorized as the Southern camp, have gradually become major transnational farmland investment countries.

Lin (2015) further pointed out how China's overseas farmland investment territory had even grown to encompass Northern countries, most notably the farmland of Australia and New Zealand. The contents of Chinese BITs that safeguard the transport of foreign agricultural resources back to China include permission granted to Chinese SOEs to invest in farmland, the use of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) for investment, the establishment of free trade agreements, the use of the South-to-South cooperation strategy, and the signing of currency swap agreements. To this end, Cotula (2012a) concluded that Chinese SOEs and SWFs and Gulf State SWFs have gradually become the main actors in overseas farmland acquisition.

This shift closely mirrored the pressing need to improve food security in these investor countries. As a result, these voracious Asian countries have been driven to pursue overseas farmland investment opportunities to feed the mother/investor countries.

Driving Forces from Asia Toward Transnational Farmland Investment

In a 2012 study, White et al. (2012, 627-631) discovered that, on the global scale, the driving force for the wave of transnational farmland investment has six elements: (1) global anticipation of food insecurity, (2) increasing reliance on new forms of resource extraction for fuel security, (3) new environmental imperatives and tools generating green land investment, (4) establishment of extensive infrastructure corridors and special economic zones, (5) creation of new financial instruments, and (6) emerging governance mechanisms of regulations and incentives provided by international organizations and facilitated by aid and lending programs. However, as argued herein, on the regional scale, four additional elements expedite the driving force for Asian countries to participate in the wave of transnational farmland investment: (1) Asian development approach following the developmental state theory, (2) Asia's insecure food availability resulting from its accelerating urbanization, (3) Asia's unstable food accessibility forcing it to secure food production lines, and (4) Asia's food safety concerns arising from its environmental degradation and pollution. The following sections address these last four elements in detail.

Development Approach Based on the Developmental State Theory

The operating principle of the developmental state theory can be traced to Europe's economic nationalism of the seventeenth century. This school of thought emphasizes economic development's inseparable relationship with state power and national security; consequently, the state becomes the most important economic actor. Although there are multiple explanations regarding the meaning of economic nationalism, these explanations do not escape three main development forces. First, the strengthening of state power and national security has a close relationship with the development path of national economic success. Thus, the state must create its own modernization path. The wealth that this modernization process brings about will be able to maintain state power and guarantee national security.

Second, international trade is viewed by economic nationalism as a way to advance modernization and a path to derive more wealth. All economic activity that can bring about international trade capital must be encouraged by the state. However, if a deficit appears in the trade, the state must intervene to prevent a larger loss of wealth that may cause state power and national security to wane. This theory, in the age of globalization, emphasizes the need for a state's trade subsidies, investment agreements, tariff negotiations, state-owned businesses, and so on to match state modernization projects under globalization. Third, economic nationalism indicates certain special industries (such as manufacturing, high tech, and military) are to be classified as strategic industries in terms of national security. All the wealth these industries produce is far greater than other economic industries (such as farming). Thus, the state must intervene to assist the special strategic industries to bring about a safer foundation for modernization.

Economic nationalism's development model is frequently studied by developing countries, especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia. The content of this development type is to mobilize nationalism quickly to move toward the modernized lifestyle of Western countries. Thus, most of the modernization projects were state-led industrialization following the development pathway of the developed countries in the Western world (Johnson 1995). These state-led industrialization projects emphasize such development pathways as building national infrastructure, extracting agricultural resources to develop other specific industries, effecting urbanization through surplus agricultural population, and putting in place robust financial and trading systems. An increasing number of developing countries in Asia have been convinced to pursue industrialization and urbanization following this blueprint. Johnson (1982) cited Japan's economic miracle to explain how the state could intervene and accelerate the industrialization process, especially by supporting the modernization of certain strategically important industries. Since then, the principle that strong intervention in the market by the state can quickly modernize a country has been used by other economic nationalism scholars to analyze the rise of East Asia and Southeast Asia (Evans 1995; Leftwitch 1995; Woo-Cumings 1999). Although the theory of the developmental state came under much criticism during Asia's financial crisis in 1997 (Pang 2000; Weiss 2000), the rise of China (Baek 2005; Beeson 2009) and the revival of state capitalism after the 2007-2008 financial crisis (Bremmer 2008; Lin 2017; Musacchio and Lazzarini 2014) once again thrust the state-led development model into the spotlight. In the twenty-first century, countries in other Asian regions have been moved to study the development pathway of the developmental state, including the democratic developmental state model of India in South Asia (Kumar 2008; Mudiam 2012) and the Dubai model of the Gulf states in West Asia (Hvidt 2009, 2011).

While the development status of these Asian countries has been further analyzed, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) found that, from the 1980s to the early twenty-first century, agriculture has gradually become less important. Table 5 shows the share of agricultural output in the GDP has drastically dropped to about 10 percent in East Asian countries and to 19 percent for India. Agricultural population also has shown a major decrease: South Korea, Japan, and Malaysia show a 3-5 percent drop annually, moving toward industrialization. Thus, the ADB asserted that even though the agricultural population in these Asian countries has declined greatly, causing the wages of farmers to soar, the surplus agricultural population moving to the urban areas for factory jobs has brought about rapid industrialization (Briones and Felipe 2013, 2-3).

However, the consequence of the state's domestic extraction of agricultural resources, sacrifice of agricultural development, and movement toward industrialization is that its food security needs to rely heavily on the supply of the global food market. To reduce the impact of this reliance, beginning in the mid-1970s, Japan started investing in foreign agricultural resources by signing BITs with other countries, providing direct and indirect financial aid, conducting overseas agricultural investment, and acquiring foreign agricultural enterprises. These investments have established a vertical overseas food-supply chain, not only ensuring the food supply for the mother country of Japan but also facilitating the sale of excess food to the global market. As a result, a more global farmland investment approach has been strategically adopted by Japan, not only to safeguard a developmental state's food security but also to further augment its accomplishments with regard to industrialization (McDonald 2000; McMichael and Kim 1994; Ufkes 1993). In the early 1970s, the Gulf states also started to adopt oil-for-food barter deals to acquire the Sudan's produce. Especially, the 1972 Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), based in Kuwait, established a multilateral donor institution among the Gulf states to invest directly in Sundanese farmland. This approach of establishing development funds among states to invest in overseas farmland not only modernized Sudan's agriculture in the 1970s but also enabled the Gulf states to directly acquire foreign agricultural resources, though corruption soon reared its ugly head later in the mid-1970s. Thus, the food security of the Gulf states became so highly safeguarded that these oil-producing countries were able to break through the plan by the West to rig oil prices through enforcing a grain embargo (Woertz 2013a, 88-89).

In the twenty-first century, GRAIN (2008) has further found that, not only are Japan and the Gulf states expanding their overseas farmland investment, but China, India, and South Korea have started to follow the models mentioned above to invest in overseas farmland. The overseas farmland investment projects in these Asian countries have received national strategic subsidies with national security considerations. For example, Muller (2011) indicated, to solve the global food crisis since 2008, South Korea started to follow Japan's method of investing in overseas farmland to acquire foreign agricultural resources. Most of South Korea's largest food corporations have invested in overseas farmland while often receiving the South Korean government's direct or indirect active support. Even South Korea's SOE, the Korea Rural Development Corporation, is active in overseas farmland investment. The farmlands these South Korean companies are interested in are largely located in Southeast Asia and Africa. The most famous case is the attempt by Daewoo Logistics in 2008 to lease 1.3 million hectares of farmland in Madagascar for ninety-nine years. Although the trade eventually failed, the South Korean government bought 325,999 hectares of farmland in Mongolia in 2011 to grow more of the food Koreans need (Berthelsen 2011).

Insecure Food Availability Resulting from Accelerating Urbanization

The developmental state model has recently caused Asian countries to pursue rapid urbanization. Douglass (2005/2006) asserted the developmental state model has combined elements of neoliberalism and globalization, accelerating urbanization in the Asia Pacific area. Consequently, more megacities are emerging. One phenomenon accompanying such urbanization is the citizenship's growing consumerism. That is, mass consumption, especially of high-protein agricultural products, occurs with the rapid urbanization process. However, Asia's developmental state model and accelerating urbanization are unfavorable to increasing food production; thus, Asian countries outwardly seek agricultural resources to grow food.

Table 6 shows the growth of urbanization in Asia is far higher than it is in other regions over the past thirty years. The UN Economic and Social Council (2011) indicated, in 2008, the global urban population exceeded the rural population for the first time in human history, and the urbanization process was expected to become more pronounced in developing countries. The UN Economic and Social Council estimated 72 percent of the global population would reside in urban areas by 2050 and between 2011 and 2050 the global population will increase by 2.3 billion to a total of 9.3 billion while the urban population is estimated to increase by 2.6 billion. The difference in these numbers reflects the expected net migration from rural areas to urban areas. In that 2.6 billion urban population growth, developing countries will account for an estimated 2.4 billion while developed countries will add only 0.2 billion. Therefore, future population growth is concentrated in the urbanization process of developing countries. Nevertheless, the two continents with the lowest urbanization rates in 2011 were Africa (39.6 percent) and Asia (45 percent). In addition, the infrastructure in Africa remains stagnant; therefore, the UN estimated Asia will be the region with the highest urbanization rate in the next few decades, accounting for 80 percent of urban population growth in developing countries. In 2008, an editorial in the New York Times warned that the uncontrolled growth of the Asian middle class resulting from accelerating urbanization was causing world food prices to rise: "The rise in food prices is partly because of uncontrollable forces--including rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India. This has increased demand for animal protein, which requires large amounts of grain." Such a rapid urbanization process has also led to the rapid increase in food demand in Asia, especially the need for feed crops, further driving Asian countries to rely on the international food trade, even seeking substitute arable farmland overseas.

To cope with rising food demand after urbanization, in 2008, China released an important national food security strategic plan: "The Medium- and Long-Term Framework Plan for National Food Security (2008-2020)" (Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China 2008). In 2009, China further published

"The Plan for Increasing National Grain Production Capacity by 50 Billion Kilograms (2009-2020)," explaining that China must acquire an extra 50 billion kilograms of grain output by 2020 to ensure its food security after urbanization (Zhong Guo Wang 2009). These two Chinese food security strategic plans both indicate China should invest in overseas agriculture, with the fourth chapter of The Framework Plan further emphasizing,

[China needs to] enhance intergovernmental cooperation through building a long-term and stable collaborative relationship with other major grain-producing countries. In order to develop and secure this stable and reliable grain-imported system, agricultural "going-out" strategy must be implemented while Chinese companies shall be encouraged to "go out." This also is the way to both protect and increase the Chinese capacity for its domestic grain security. (Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China 2008)

Later, China's twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) first suggested the Chinese agricultural going-out strategy should be included in China's five-year plans. Chapter 52 called upon Chinese agricultural companies, SOEs particularly, to adopt the going-out strategy and cooperate with other major grain-producing countries to capture foreign agricultural resources. Chapter 18 of China's thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) continually repeated this agricultural going-out strategy. All these documents, based on the forecast of China's rising food demand, further encouraged the Chinese to acquire overseas agricultural resources via international cooperation and investment.

South Korea's Samsung Research Institute also made a similar suggestion in 2011, stating that rapid urbanization is forcing South Korea to import more feed crops, high-protein meat, and dairy products. Hence, the Institute suggested,

[South Korea should] secure foreign bases for food production through overseas agricultural development. The government should provide comprehensive support for domestic firms that are striving to build food production bases abroad, and should make arrangements for the appropriate financial resources through overseas agricultural development funds. It is also necessary to set up a general control tower to prevent and handle the risks of overseas agricultural development at a governmental level. (Park et al. 2011, 11)

The Institute further suggested South Korea use direct purchases to import grain from the overseas farmlands it invests in. These purchases not only would spread the sources of import but also reduce the influence of the oligopoly imposed by the global major food corporations. Such suggestions also illustrate that global unstable food accessibility has become an important factor behind Asian countries' eager participation in transnational farmland investment.

Unstable Food Accessibility Drives Securing of Food Production Lines

Part of the aftermath of the global food crisis of 2007-2008 was that instabilities in global food accessibility once again came to the fore. At first, food prices surged only in the Middle Eastern and North African regions (Headey and Fan 2008). These regions, which received IMF subsidies in the 1980s, implemented IMF-mandated neoliberal policies that substantially reduced the states' public capacities for food security, especially food reserves. Hence, low food reserves forced Middle Eastern and North African countries already coping with the 2007-2008 surges in food prices to make large purchases in the global food market, causing prices to climb further. By mid-2008, the lofty food prices began to garner the attention of financial investors, resulting in a shift of global financial investment funds to agricultural commodities and further driving global food prices up. Finally, the global increase in food prices pushed food-producing countries in the global South, particularly China, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Argentina, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, to implement agricultural protectionism and indirectly obstruct the export of grains and fertilizers through increased export taxes. Although their intent was to secure their own domestic food supplies, this further exacerbated the sense of insecurity over food accessibility within the global food market.

Using the viewpoint of the corporate food regime, McMichael further explained the causes of the rise in food prices:
   Within the terms of the corporate food regime, neo-liberal policies
   (particularly liberalization and financial deregulation) have
   encouraged agribusiness consolidation, including strategic
   alliances between agribusiness, the chemical industry and
   biotechnology. Most importantly, dismantling national marketing
   boards, eliminating small farmer subsidies and rural credit, and
   liberalizing trade and investment relations have accelerated
   de-peasantization and legitimized a wholesale conversation of the
   global South into a "world farm." At the same time as displacement
   of small farmers reduces overall food production,
   super-marketization has undermined local means of subsistence,
   converting wet market operations into contract farming for powerful
   foreign retailers. (2009, 286-287)

Thus, through the platform of neoliberal policies, large food multinational corporations (MNCs) can cooperate more closely, centralize global food supply chains, and control global food prices and transactions. In 2007 when global food prices rose 24 percent, the yearly profits of the three largest agricultural companies (Cargill, ADM, and Bunge) rose 103 percent, and the yearly profits of the three largest seed/pesticide companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont) rose 91 percent (McMichael 2009, 290). Thus, the status of the concentration and centralization of global agribusiness has caused worry among Asian countries.

In 2008, to disperse the risk of food import sources largely concentrated in the United States, China began to encourage Chinese agribusinesses to go out, as mentioned. By establishing more BITs and international cooperation projects, Beijing invested in farmlands of periphery countries, for example Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, to increase local rice output intended to go to China (Cheng and Zhang 2014, 10). Today, China is attempting to develop Russian, Kazakhstani, and Ukrainian farmlands through increasingly close agricultural cooperation. If successful, these attempts will turn Eastern Europe and Central Asia into China's future granaries (Cheng and Zhang 2014, 15). Lin (2015) analyzed China's recent transnational farmland investment behavior and concluded that the different food crops cultivated were tailored to the natural resources found locally and China's domestic food requirements. Thus, China can diversify the sources of food imports: "The proposed crop types reflect a map in which Southeast Asia was designated for growing rice, Central Asia and East Europe for wheat and maize, South America for soybean and maize, and Africa for China's agricultural research and extension stations (multipurpose land use in Africa)" (Lin 2015, 99-101).

In the twenty-first century, the Gulf states have begun to revive the 1970s strategy of establishing SWFs to invest in foreign agriculture, hoping not only to control the agribusiness opportunity in rising global food prices but also to secure the Gulf states' food production lines simultaneously (Woertz 2011). As a result, in addition to existing SWFs, like the Kuwait-based AFESD, which continue to invest in foreign farmland, new SWFs have begun to create food security governance mechanisms, including the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, which established a food aid body; the Kuwait Investment Authority, which runs a food SOE, Agricultural Food Products Company; and the Qatar Investment Authority, which created a food SOE, Hassad Food. Woertz further found,

Saudi Arabia, UAE [United Arab Emirates], and Qatar have been the most active investors, while Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman have trailed behind. Saudi Arabia has focused on Sudan, Ethiopia, and other countries in East Africa, which are located close to its long coastline along the Red Sea. The UAE has shown a preference for Pakistan for similar reasons of geographic proximity. Qatar's interests have been widely spread, ranging from Australia, to Vietnam and Kenya. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have the most institutionalized approach with bespoke coordinating agencies like the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) and the King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad (KAISAIA). (Woertz 2013a, 91)

These Gulf states hope overseas investments will ensure their direct access to large food production bases, and protect them from global swings in unstable food prices.

Furthermore, the Malaysian government, wanting to secure its palm oil production lines, actively participated in the transnational farmland investment movement. To adapt to Cargill's large-scale entrance into the palm oil market and the challenge posed by ADM's Asian alliance of agricultural companies that took the shape of an ADM-Kuok-Wilmar alliance, in 2007, the Malaysian government merged three Malaysian palm oil SOEs, forming a new state-controlled Malaysian palm oil producer: Sime Darby Bhd. Sime Darby Bhd. not only possesses most of Malaysia's oil palm plantations (about 80,645 hectares), it has also invested on a large scale in Indonesian farmland (about 59,721 hectares) and Papua New Guinea's farmland (about 13,662 hectares) to cultivate oil palm. These government-supported investments can help Sime Darby Bhd. to grasp the business opportunities of the palm oil market. Varkkey (2013) further found Malaysia's other major palm oil producers, including Tabung Haji Plantations, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, Genting Plantations, and IOI Corporation, have all acquired large amounts of Indonesian oil palm plantations with the Malaysian government's support, continually dominating the global palm oil production lines. However, Malaysia's investment in Indonesian farmland illustrates how its domestic agricultural production environment has been degraded (particularly since the country experienced the world's highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012, a factor that contributed to severe haze pollution); this has already become one of the most important considerations underpinning transnational farmland investments by Asian countries.

Food Safety Concerns Arising from Environmental Degradation

Malaysia's degraded environmental condition is the epitome of Asian countries, which all face a shortage of arable land and inadequate potable water. Table 7 shows Asia's farmland deficiency and water shortage, both of which are consistently below the world's average. This issue has compelled Asian countries to use large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, the only way they can realize a high output of agricultural crops and satisfy the rising demand for food. Particularly, India, as one of the traditional agricultural powers, is a vivid example whose agricultural ecological conditions continue to deteriorate at a rapid rate. From 1970 to the beginning of the twenty-first century, India's arable land per capita decreased by 58.6 percent, potable water per capita decreased by 66.7 percent, and pesticide import value increased 110 times. In addition, from 2000 to 2013 the consumption of nitrogen fertilizers rose by 60 percent. At the same time, China's arable land (9) per capita decreased by 33 percent, potable water per capita decreased by 50 percent, pesticide import value increased fourteen times, and the consumption of nitrogen fertilizers rose by 11 percent. If analyzed further, China's agricultural ecological conditions have deteriorated at a slower rate in the twenty-first century, whereas India's rate of deterioration has not appeared to slow. Although India can currently reap the fruits of the Green Revolution, especially the utilization of pesticides and fertilizers to drive high crop yields and food self-sufficiency, heavy dependence on pesticides and fertilizers has caused a deterioration of the agricultural ecological environment.

Table 8 shows that India and other Asian countries' quality of arable land is generally lower than the world average (1.87 percent) because of the continued use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other growth-enhancing substances. Thus, it is difficult for these countries to continue the Green Revolution's large growth dividends. At the same time, low-quality arable farmland makes cultivating organically grown foods difficult while artificial substances and modification methods continue to increase in Asian farmlands and food products. In other words, despite the previous assistance from the Green Revolution's achievements, pesticides and fertilizers continue to contribute sources of pollution that cause food safety concerns among Asian countries. In a 2010 report, Japan's Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) stated that industrial and agricultural pollution has become an important cause of food insecurity in the Asia Pacific region, and the situation is worsening (Prabhakar, Sano, and Srivastava 2010, 221). IGES found Bangladesh already had 1,657,381 food contamination cases in 1998, causing 2,064 deaths. South Korea had 7,909 food contamination cases in 2003; in the 2008 tainted milk formula case in China, 300,000 infants were victims; and Thailand has 120,000 food contamination cases every year. Further, India has 8,000-10,000 food contamination cases each year, causing more than 1,000 annual deaths. In addition, overuse of pesticides has become a major factor in India's food contamination in recent years. Thus, IGES has suggested Asia Pacific countries enhance national food safety laws and programs and establish national food safety implementation agencies to solve food safety problems. However, although Asian countries have started to improve their national food safety governance in the twenty-first century, information opacity of the bureaucracy in Asia has continued to affect Asia's food safety. The issue of uranium poisoning in Punjab, India, in 2009, and the continuing concern of the cadmium-laced rice in Guangdong and Hunan, China, since 2011, illustrate governments' reluctance to make public information about the sources of industrial and agricultural pollution, which has become a reason for food unsafety.

Information opacity concerning sources of food contamination is a common trait among Asian countries, as is overseas farmland investment to solve food safety problems. To solve the tainted milk formula incident in 2008, China started to encourage Chinese dairy companies, particularly the SOEs like Yili, Mengniu, and Bright Food, to invest in dairy farming land in New Zealand and Australia. At the same time, China needed to obtain purer and more sufficient high-protein agricultural products, especially pork. Therefore, in 2013, China's Shuanghui International Holdings, Ltd., acquired Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world's largest hog farmer and pork processer based in the United States. The Wall Street Journal indicated, to reduce environmental pollution problems, lessen food production challenges, and convince consumers of food safety in China, "milk and other dairy products would also make logical Chinese acquisitions" (Yap 2013). In the coming future, "as rising wealth collides with a string of scandals over tainted food in China, prospective acquirers could also shop for premium processed foods abroad, including olive oil and meat and dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt" (Yap 2013).

Additionally, India started to outsource its food production in 2008, primarily for the following reasons: the overuse and depletion of underground water in northern and central India, the lack of quantity and quality of farmland nationwide, supply stagnation and unsafe quality in crop yield from Green Revolution fatigue, and concerns about long-term food security. Rowden (2011b) found, even though the Indian companies that invested in farmlands in Africa are private, the Indian government still plays a crucial role. The process of the Indian government's supporting the enterprises to invest in overseas farmland is the same as those of China, South Korea, and the Gulf states. They all systematically help these enterprises to acquire African farmland. The supporting tools of the government include high-level trade diplomacy, foreign aid, and subsidized credit for the Indian agricultural MNCs to invest in farmlands overseas. At the same time, African countries welcome the investment of Indian enterprises. The main investment-receiving countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, and Mozambique. The crops are all grain crops and economic crops the Indian market is accustomed to, not crops widely used in Africa. Furthermore, Rowden also worked with GRAIN and the Economic Research Foundation to conduct additional research on India's overseas farmland investment (Rowden 2011a). They found the serious lack of water resources was one of the main factors driving India's investment in overseas farmland. Therefore, South America's abundant water resources will attract India's next wave of farmland investment. However, Indian MNCs are accustomed to overusing water resources, pesticides, and fertilizers. Such acts of irresponsibility will be outsourced to host states and will likely affect the agricultural ecological environment of those host states (Rowden 2011a, 26-28).

Figure 2 recaps the article's analysis.


This study has addressed the reasons for transnational farmland investment from the perspectives of investor countries and revealed four factors driving Asian countries to join the transnational farmland investment movement. These factors include the developmental state model, rapid urbanization leading to insecure food availability, insecure food supply affecting food accessibility, and aggravation of agricultural ecological environments causing food unsafety. Asian countries' transnational farmland investments not only allow them to continue their modernization by following the developmental state model but also make possible improvement of food security, especially food availability, accessibility, and safety.

However, that increasingly more Southern countries in Asia are joining the transnational farmland investment movement shows the shortcomings of current global food security governance. The main international organizations currently promoting transnational farmland investment are the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the G7. The international organizations that insist transnational farmland investments must abide by food rights, environmental rights, property rights, and human rights are the FAO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Northern-based MNCs, like Cargill, ADM, Bunge, and Monsanto, are largely supervised by Northern-based global civil society. These governance mechanisms are dominated by the Northern countries and lack a mechanism with which to supervise and manage the Southern countries that follow economic nationalism. Therefore, Southern countries can address their national security by sidestepping the global food security governance dominated by the Northern countries (Margulis and Porter 2013). Thus, their strategy of transnational farmland investment can be implemented easily and freely. It not only leads to security mercantilism (McMichael 2013) but also deepens misgivings about neocolonialism. (10) As a result, lowering investment risks and expanding investment opportunities in the future depend on how the structures of global food security governance listen to Asian countries, a topic worthy of academia's continued attention.


Scott Y. Lin is assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies and assistant research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University at Taipei, Taiwan. He received his PhD from Rutgers University in 2012. He is currently working on research exploring Chinese food security issues, especially its governance mechanism, overseas farmland investments, and approaches to environmental degradation adaptation. He can be reached at The author would like to thank Dr. Jenn-hwan Wang and Pasha L. Hsieh for their valuable comments and the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan for its support through grant MOST 103-2410-H-004-123-MY2.

(1.) Deals defined as transnational farmland investment in this article meet the following criteria: (1) they entail a transnational transfer of rights to use, control, or own farmland through sale, lease, or concession; (2) they cover an area of over 200 hectares; and (3) they are for the production of food crops.

(2.) The Land Matrix is an online public database that allows all users around the world to provide, upgrade, correct, and improve data on land deals. As an open tool, the Land Matrix database is able to offer constantly updated information on farmland investments that includes deals made for food production, biofuel production, timber extraction, carbon trading, mineral extraction, conservation, and tourism. The Land Matrix data used in this article are Phase II, which categorizes land deals into three different states: Intended, Concluded, and Failed Cases. This article takes into consideration only Concluded deals, a most conservative and cautious approach for using the Land Matrix (Phase II). See Land Matrix (Phase II), (accessed March 24, 2016).

(3.) These ten countries are China (including Hong Kong), the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, India, Canada, and the Netherlands.

(4.) GRAIN is an international nonprofit organization that works to support small farmers around the world. Since 2008, GRAIN's staff and allies in different regions have been tracking and assessing transnational farmland investment reports and constructing its own database on land deals. GRAIN's database indicates that global farmland investments are deepening and expanding from about 100 projects in 2008, to 400 projects in 2012, and currently to 491 projects in 2016 covering 30 million hectares of farmland in 78 countries. -grab-in-2016-how-big-how-bad (accessed March 21, 2017).

(5.) Both dimensions, sacrificing domestic grain agriculture and utilizing global agricultural resources, shall be considered together in the developmental state model.

(6.) Land Matrix (Phase II),

(7.) This is also in line with findings by Thomas (2013) and Lin (2015, 2017) that concluded that China is relying not on Africa but on Southeast Asia and Latin America to feed its population.

(8.) Land Matrix (Phase II),

(9.) Lin (2015, 95-96) surmised that since 2007, the Chinese government had had difficulties maintaining its goal of keeping the arable farmland red line at the level of no less than 120 million hectares (1.8 billion mu) for food security due to rapid urbanization and soil contamination.

(10.) While neocolonialism is used to describe contemporary global land grabbing through aid and investment, a major difference between the previous colonialism of land grabbing and the current neocolonialism of grabbing is South-South cooperation which is emerging only in the latter cases (Cheru, Modi, and Naidu 2013). Robertson and Pinstrup-Andersen (2010) also discovered that, if the risks of the neocolonialist land acquisitions could be mitigated through responsible agricultural investments by national governments, international community, and investors, development opportunities for Southern countries should be possible.


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Caption: Figure 1 Asia's Investment in Overseas Farmlands (1,000,000 Hectares)
Table 1 Selective Indicators of the GFSI in the Asia Pacific Region

Indicators                         2012       2013     2014     2015

Food availability                55.9 (a)     56.6     56.6     58.5
                                (55.9) (b)   (57.1)   (57.2)   (58.6)
  Sufficiency of food supply       54.2       56.0     55.3     57.0
                                  (58.2)     (59.5)   (58.9)   (60.9)
  Public expenditure on            11.4       11.4     5.1      5.7
  agricultural research           (16.7)     (16.7)   (14.9)   (14.8)
  and development
Food affordability                 51.9       52.1     54.3     56.4
                                  (53.7)     (53.4)   (55.7)   (56.7)
  Food consumption as a share      45.5       46.6     52.1     52.4
  of household expenditure        (51.0)     (51.2)   (57.3)   (58.1)
Food quality and safety            55.8       55.8     55.6     56.6
                                  (57.3)     (57.3)   (57.7)   (58.8)
Overall score                      54.3       54.7     55.5     57.3
                                  (55.2)     (55.6)   (56.7)   (57.9)

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, Global Food Security Index,

Notes: (a.) Score 0-100, 100 = best.

(b.) Global average in parentheses.

Table 2 Grain Self-Sufficiency Ratios of Major Asian Countries

Country/Region         Grain Self-Sufficiency
                             Ratios (%)

Thailand                        148
Pakistan                        117
Vietnam                         117
India                           109
China                           100
Indonesia                        87
Philippines                      83
Japan                            28
South Korea                      26
Malaysia                         25
Taiwan                           19
Saudi Arabia                     11
United Arab Emirates              5
Kuwait                            2
Hong Kong                         0

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan.

Table 3 Cereal Import Dependency Ratio of Major Asian Countries, by
3-Year Average (%)

Country        2001/   2002/   2003/   2004/   2005/   2006/   2007/
               2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008    2009

China           -1.7    -0.6     0.2     1.7     0.4     0.5     0.7
Thailand       -44.0   -51.9   -49.6   -46.2   -40.3   -48.5   -51.0
South Korea     72.8    73.4    73.3    72.9    73.8    73.3    72.2
Vietnam        -11.2   -10.6   -13.0   -13.0   -12.4   -11.1   -10.9
Japan           79.9    79.9    79.7    79.2    79.1    79.1    79.1
Malaysia        76.2    79.1    79.2    80.3    79.0    78.0    76.0
India           -4.4    -5.0    -4.1    -2.3    -2.1    -2.2    -3.1
Saudi Arabia    68.8    66.9    69.5    71.9    76.2    78.8    81.8
Kuwait          99.4    99.3    99.4    99.5    99.6    99.6    99.2
Oman            95.5    95.3    95.4    95.8    96.3    96.8    95.0
United Arab
Emirates       100.0   100.0   100.0   100.0    99.2    98.5    97.1

Country        2008/   2009/   [DELTA] (a)
               2010    2011

China            1.7     2.1    +3.8
Thailand       -45.2   -41.6    +2.4
South Korea     72.8    74.2    +1.4
Vietnam        -10.7   -11.0    +0.1
Japan           79.5    79.9     0.0
Malaysia        75.4    76.0    -0.2
India           -2.7    -3.1    +1.3
Saudi Arabia    85.7    88.1   +19.3
Kuwait          98.6    97.8    -1.6
Oman            94.9    93.4    -2.1
United Arab
Emirates        95.9    94.7    -5.3

Source: FAO,

Note: (a.) [DELTA] = change, 2009/2011 compared to 2001/2003.

Table 4 Transnational Farmland Investment from Major Asian Countries
(in hectares)

Investors               Total     Southeast    South     Latin
                                     Asia      Asia     America

East Asia            10,770,858   4,339,565      908     822,698
  China (including
  Hong Kong)          2,979,304   1,507,688        0     352,870
  Malaysia            3,329,696   1,265,649        0       4,046
  Singapore           2,893,364     532,349      220      69,116
  South Korea           588,494     276,806      688     240,000
  Thailand              343,513     343,513        0           0
  Vietnam               325,351     325,251        0           0
  Japan                 311,136      88,309        0     156,666
South Asia            2,075,846     402,510    2,652     815,814
  India               2,075,846     402,510    2,652     815,814
Gulf states           4,193,469         200   41,345     370,260
  United Arab
  Emirates            2,271,727           0   40,345           0
  Saudi Arabia        1,604,764           0        0     223,000
  Qatar                 253,842         200        0     147,260
  Kuwait                 62,136           0        0           0
  Bahrain                 1,000           0    1,000           0
Total invested
  areas from major
  Asian countries    17,040,173   4,742,275   44,905   2,008,772
Ratios of global
  invested areas         43.19%

Investors              Africa      East        Others

East Asia            3,252,001   167,000       2,188,696
  China (including
  Hong Kong)           211,270   167,000         740,476
  Malaysia             940,240         0   1,119,761 (a)
  Singapore          2,020,796         0         270,883
  South Korea           15,000         0          56,000
  Thailand                   0         0               0
  Vietnam                  110         0               0
  Japan                 64,585         0           1,576
South Asia             854,870         0               0
  India                854,870         0               0
Gulf states          3,665,528    34,000          82,136
  United Arab
  Emirates           2,231,382         0               0
  Saudi Arabia       1,327,764    34,000          20,000
  Qatar                106,382         0               0
  Kuwait                     0         0          62,136
  Bahrain                    0         0               0
Total invested
  areas from major
  Asian countries    7,772,399   201,000       2,270,832
Ratios of global
  invested areas

Source: Land Matrix (Phase II), (accessed March
24, 2016).

Note: (a.) 997,620 hectares in Papua New Guinea.

Table 5 Agricultural Output and Employment Shares in Asia: Speed of

                              Agriculture Output
                                 Share of GDP

               Period     Start-End     Speed of
               Covered       (%)        Reduction
Country                               (% per annum)

South Korea   1980-2010   16.2-2.6        5.73
Japan         1980-2009    3.6-1.4        3.10
China         1980-2008   30.2-10.7       3.51
Malaysia      1980-2009   22.6-9.5        2.85
Thailand      1980-2009   23.2-11.5       2.31
Philippines   1980-2009   25.1-13.1       2.14
India         1994-2010   28.5-19.0       2.36

                   Employment Share

              Start-End     Speed of
                 (%)      of Reduction
Country                   (% per annum)

South Korea   34.0-6.6        5.15
Japan         10.4-3.7        3.39
China         68.7-39.6       1.88
Malaysia      37.2-13.5       3.32
Thailand      70.8-41.5       1.76
Philippines   51.8-35.2       1.28
India         61.9-51.1       1.12

Source: Briones and Felipe (2013, 2).

Table 6 Global Urban Population Rate (%)

Area                       1980    1990    2010    [DELTA] (a)

World                       39.4    43.0    51.6      12.2
  More developed regions    70.1    72.3    77.5       7.4
  Less developed regions    29.5    34.9    46.0      16.5
Asia                        27.1    32.3    44.4      17.3
  China                     27.5    26.4    49.2      21.7
  Japan                     76.2    77.3    90.5      14.3
  South Korea               56.7    73.8    82.9      26.2
  India                     23.1    25.5    30.6       7.5
  Malaysia                  42.0    49.8    72.0      30.0
  Singapore                100.0   100.0   100.0       0.0
  Kuwait                    94.8    98.0    98.2       3.4
  Qatar                     89.4    92.8    98.7       9.3
  Saudi Arabia              65.9    76.6    82.1      16.2
  United Arab Emirates      80.7    79.1    84.0       3.3
  Africa                    27.8    32.0    39.2      11.4
Europe                      67.3    69.8    72.7       5.4
Latin America and
the Caribbean               64.3    70.3    78.8      14.5
North America               73.9    75.4    82.0       8.1
Oceania                     71.3    70.7    70.7      -0.6

Area                           2050

World                           67.2
  More developed regions        85.9
  Less developed regions        64.1
Asia                            64.4
  China                         77.3
  Japan                         97.6
  South Korea                   89.6
  India                         51.7
  Malaysia                      86.0
  Singapore                    100.0
  Kuwait                        98.7
  Qatar                         99.8
  Saudi Arabia                  88.4
  United Arab Emirates          90.6
  Africa                        57.7
Europe                          82.2
Latin America and
the Caribbean                   86.6
North America                   88.6
Oceania                         73.0

Source: UN Economic and Social Council (2011).

Note: (a.) [DELTA] = change, 2010 compared to 1980.

Table 7 Use of Land, Water, Pesticides, and Fertilizers in Asia

                         1970                       1980

               Land   Water   Pesticides   Land   Water   Pesticides

World          0.36    0.11      737,810   0.30    0.09    4,464,217
China          0.12    0.02       56,603   0.10    0.02      137,731
India          0.29    0.06        6,510   0.23    0.05       33,924
Indonesia      0.16    0.09       11,487   0.12    0.07       26,606
Japan          0.05    0.01       15,623   0.04    0.01       92,426
Malaysia       0.09    0.02        6,772   0.08    0.02       42,234
Philippines    0.13    0.00        4,258   0.11    0.00       14,335
South Korea    0.07    0.01          913   0.06    0.01       12,182
Thailand       0.33    0.01        8,040   0.35    0.00       65,820
Vietnam        0.13    0.01          715   0.11    0.00        2,000
Saudi Arabia   0.23                1,432   0.19               35,676
Kuwait         0.00                  398   0.00                4,001
Oman           0.03                  800   0.02                2,560
United Arab
  Emirates     0.03                1,000   0.02                7,675


               Land   Water    Pesticides

World          0.27    0.08   8,142,278.1
China          0.11    0.01     356,428.0
India          0.19    0.04      16,203.0
Indonesia      0.11    0.05      10,052.0
Japan          0.04    0.01     187,405.0
Malaysia       0.06    0.01      36,515.0
Philippines    0.09    0.00      14,444.0
South Korea    0.05    0.01      17,131.0
Thailand       0.31    0.00     130,495.0
Vietnam        0.08    0.00       9,043.0
Saudi Arabia   0.21              88,508.0
Kuwait         0.00               3,184.0
Oman           0.02               5,997.0
United Arab
  Emirates     0.02              16,856.0


               Land   Water     Pesticides        NF

World          0.23    0.07   10,901,633.7   79,154.8
China          0.09    0.01      439,223.6   21,573.0
India          0.15    0.03       49,212.0   10,469.2
Indonesia      0.10    0.05       53,033.0   1,974.7
Japan          0.04    0.01      269,655.0     531.0
Malaysia       0.04    0.01       54,797.0     450.5
Philippines    0.06    0.00       83,988.0     445.2
South Korea    0.04    0.01       70,292.0     363.4
Thailand       0.25    0.00      194,154.0   1,018.8
Vietnam        0.08    0.00      150,996.0   1,150.3
Saudi Arabia   0.17               56,662.0      98.2
Kuwait         0.01                7,496.0      21.2
Oman           0.01                9,858.0       4.1
United Arab
  Emirates     0.02               18,008.0      38.9


               Land   Water      Pesticides         NF

World          0.20    0.06   30,666,620.50   99,572.1
China          0.08    0.01      860,286.22   23,942.0
India          0.12    0.02      724,627.63   16,732.1
Indonesia      0.09    0.04      292,961.98    2,825.2
Japan          0.03    0.01      472,080.26      437.1
Malaysia       0.03    0.01      193,487.55      444.0
Philippines    0.08    0.00      232,227.59      287.3
South Korea    0.03    0.01      188,658.75      238.3
Thailand       0.25    0.00      626,269.82    1,633.4
Vietnam        0.07    0.00      699,788.26    1,134.1
Saudi Arabia   0.10              138,176.18      360.2
Kuwait         0.00                5,000.00        9.4
Oman           0.01               19,498.71       26.7
United Arab
  Emirates     0.00               35,000.00       18.3

Source: FAO,

Notes: Land = arable land per capita (hectare); water = inland water
per capita (hectare); pesticides = import value of pesticides
(US$1,000); NF = consumption in nutrients of nitrogen fertilizers
(1,000 tons).

Table 8 Farmland Conditions in Asia in 2008

Area                   Average Carbon Content
                       in the Topsoil as % in
                             weight (a)

World                           1.87
China                  Approx. 0.48-0.54 (b)
India                           0.88
Thailand                        1.01
Vietnam                         1.26
Philippines                     1.28
South Korea                     1.29
Japan                           2.28
Kuwait                          0.42
Oman                            0.48
United Arab Emirates            0.50
Saudi Arabia                    0.65

Source: FAO,

Notes: (a.) Higher percentages = better conditions; lower
percentages = poor- er conditions.

(b.) Author's calculation. China's data are not available.

Figure 2 Asia's Transnational Farmland Investment and the

Food Security   Driving Factors   Current Results   Possible Future
Indexes                                             Consequences

Stability       The               Asian countries   Regionally
                developmental     driven to join
                state model       the
                making Asian      transnational
                countries         farmland
                sacrificel        investment
                agriculture in    movement
                their homelands

Availability    The increases
                in food demand
                resulting from


Accessibility   The unstable      BITs, FT As,      Globally
                food supply       South-South
                chain due to      cooperation
                the 2007-2008     (including aid
                food crisis       and
Safety and      The emerging      agricultural
quality         food safety       SOEs, SWFs,
                concerns          government-
                arising from      supported MNCs

Food Security   Possible Future
Indexes         Consequences

Stability       Emergence of
                the South-
                Central food


Accessibility   Adjustment of
                the current
                dominated food
Safety and      structure
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Author:Lin, Scott Y.
Publication:Asian Perspective
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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