Cargill's Colombian land-grab
U.S. commodities trader bought land through shell companies
U.S. commodities trader Cargill has bought large areas of farm land in Colombia violating the spirit of new agrarian reform laws in the country.
A new report by Oxfam shows that the company used dozens of shell companies to circumnavigate new laws that limit the amount of land any individual or company can own.
This enabled Cargill to farm all of the adjoining land as a single plantation and get around restrictions designed to promote distribution of land to smallholder farmers.
Cargill may have broken the law by purchasing over 52,576 hectares (130,000 acres) in the eastern Altillanura plains through companies registered from 2010 and 2012, all listed under the same agricultural activity and address.
Cargill spokeswoman Lori Johnson told Reuters: "Where we disagree with Oxfam is on what are the policies that really lead to stability, poverty reduction and increased food security. And, in this particular instance we clearly disagree with their interpretation of the law," Johnson said.
The report found that all 36 Cargill-linked "shell" companies stated the same address, listed the same sole board member and principal legal representative and the same economic activity - production of cereals, oil seeds and leguminous crops.
According to Oxfam, Colombia had one of the highest rates of land concentration in the world, with 80 percent of the land owned by 14 percent of landowners. Legal limits on land purchases, including in the Altillanura plains, were a key part of Colombia's land-reform effort.
It said that the actions of Cargill and other companies "threaten to derail efforts to help small farmers and erode efforts to address social inequality, an issue that features on the agenda of peace talks between the government and FARC".
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Read more about Cargill:
Corporate Watch - Cargill
Special Report: Food, justice and corporate power
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