Sugar Rush: Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies | Economies

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This briefing shows how one crop
  OXFAM BRIEFING NOTE 2 OCTOBER 2013 Tractors on a sugar cane plantation which occupies ancestral land of the indigenous group Guarani-Kaiowá. The displaced community now lives in a temporary camp next to the land on the side of Highway BR-163, Mato Grosso do Sul. Photo: Tatiana Cardeal SUGAR RUSH Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies This paper sets out how one crop  –  sugar  –  has been driving large-scale land acquisitions and land conflicts at the expense of small-scale food producers and their families. At least 4m hectares of land have been acquired for sugar production in 100 large-scale land deals since 2000, although given the lack of transparency around such deals, the area is likely to be much greater. In some cases, these acquisitions have been linked to human rights violations, loss of livelihoods, and hunger for small-scale food producers and their families. Major food and beverage companies rarely own land, but they depend on it for the crops they buy, including sugar. These companies must urgently recognize this problem, and take steps to ensure that land rights violations and conflicts are not part of their supply chains.  2 1INTRODUCTION Since 2000, nearly 800 large-scale land deals covering 33m hectares globally  –  an area four times the size of Portugal  –  have been recorded. 1  This land has shifted from smallholder production, local community use, or the provision of important ecosystem services, to commercial use, driven in part by the rising demand for large-scale crops like sugar. Governments, businesses, and financial investors must respect and uphold the rights of communities and seek their informed consent before engaging in any land-related activities. 2  While food and beverage companies are not usually direct land holders, they are collectively major buyers of commodities grown on large plantations, often in countries plagued by land rights violations. Food and beverage companies must urgently recognize these issues, and take steps to ensure that land rights violations and conflicts are not part of their supply chains. BEHIND THE BRANDS In 2013, Oxfam launched „Behind the Brands‟, part of its GROW campaign. 3  GROW calls on governments and companies to build a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive. „Behind the Brands‟ tracks ten of the world‟s biggest food and beverage companies and assesses their policies and commitment in helping to create this system. These 'Big 10' are  Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever. Collectively, they generate revenues of over $1.1bn a day. 4  The Behind the Brands scorecard 5   ranks the Big 10‟s policies  and commitments in seven critical areas: women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, water, land, climate change, and transparency. Of these themes, land is the one on which the companies score worst. The Big 10 lack adequate policies to ensure that local c ommunities‟ land rights are protected along their supply chains, and none has declared zero tolerance of „land grabbing‟ (see Box 7 below).  Access to land for small-scale farmers is a pivotal part of a better food system. Access to common lands provides communities with water, fodder, fruits, nuts, and other resources  –  often vitally important for women to feed themselves and their families. This paper sets out how one crop  –  sugar  –  has been driving large-scale land acquisitions and land conflicts at the expense of small-scale food producers and their families.   3 2 SUGAR AND LAND RIGHTS The 2008 boom in food prices is widely recognized as having triggered a surge in investor interest in agriculture: from mid-2008 to 2009 the number of reported land deals rocketed by around 200 per cent. 6  Investment in agriculture, moreover, is desperately needed. Agriculture is vital for food security, and is the crucial „growth spark‟ for many developing economies. 7  Private investment can contribute to inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, and poverty reduction. However, too often land investments have led to human rights violations, loss of livelihoods, alienation of people‟s spiritual and cultural ties to land, and sometimes violence and destruction of property and crops. Oxfam has called this „development in reverse‟. 8  Women living in poverty are at particular risk, 9  since they are less likely than men to have land titles or a say in decisions affecting their access to land. 10  For communities and small-scale farmers, loss of land is disastrous for livelihoods and food security. Since 2000, nearly 800 large-scale land deals by foreign investors, covering 33m ha globally, have been recorded, as well as 255 deals by domestic investors. 11  Owing to the lack of transparency around land acquisitions, however, and the under-representation of domestic deals, the real number could be much higher. Nearly half of these deals have taken place in  Africa, 12  and many in countries with weak land governance 13  or with „alarming‟ levels of hunger, including Mozambique, Sudan, and Zambia. 14  The five countries with the largest total land acquisitions by area, covering a total of over 16m ha, are South Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique. 15  Cambodia is the country that has the most reported deals, with 104 concluded since 2000. 16  While struggles over land are not new, they have taken on renewed importance as pressure on land increases. Investors, 17  driven by rising food and fuel prices and by growing consumer demand, have rapidly expanded large-scale crop production. Small-scale producers are sidelined as the market offers companies huge rewards for exploiting land, but without safeguarding people‟s  rights.  4 Box 1: What makes a land acquisition a land grab? Large-scale 18  land acquisitions become land grabs when they do one or more of the following: ã  Violate human rights, particularly those of women; ã  Flout the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC  –  see Box 6 below); ã  Take place without or disregard a thorough assessment of social, economic, and environmental impacts; ã  Avoid transparent contracts with clear and binding commitments on employment and benefit sharing; ã  Eschew democratic planning, independent oversight, and meaningful participation. 19   SUGAR-COATED CONFLICT Many large-scale land acquisitions involve commodities that are heavily used to produce both food and biofuels: sugar, soy, and palm oil. 20  These are predominately monoculture crops produced for markets that operate on large volumes and small margins. Collectively they use 150m ha of land 21  and have been linked to more than 380 large-scale land acquisitions since 2000. 22  This report focuses on sugar as both a land-intensive crop and a key ingredient for the food industry, with 51 per cent of all sugar produced being used in processed foods such as soft drinks, confectionery, baked goods, and ice cream. 23  Sugar is produced on 31m hectares of land globally 24    –  an area the size of Italy  –  with at least 4m ha linked to 100 large-scale land deals since 2000, 25  though the area is likely be much greater since not all recorded deals include information on land size. In contrast, palm oil, while also a key food ingredient that has been strongly linked to large-scale land acquisitions, only uses half as much land as sugar. Soy is the biggest land user by far, 26  but just 16 per cent of soy is used directly in food products. 27  In the period between 1961 and 2009, global sugar and sweetener consumption more than doubled. 28  Looking forward, in the decade to 2020, demand for sugar is set to rise by a further 25 per cent. 29  This will put considerable additional pressure on land, which can contribute to conflicts between communities and plantation companies.
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