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What Impact will Brazil's Plan to Allow Foreign Ownership of Land Have?

December 15, 2016
Source
Reuters

By Chris Arsenault

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Brazil's plan to allow foreigners to buy large tracts of farmland to spur growth in South America's biggest country is being closely monitored by foreign investors, such as pension funds looking for stable, long-term returns, experts say.

Currently, foreigners must partner with domestic investors who retain a majority stake in order to buy Brazilian land.

The proposed changes were announced by the government led by President Michel Temer, who assumed power in August following the impeachment of his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, over budget accounting irregularities.

It remains unclear when the proposed changes to the land law, which are currently before Congress, will take effect.

Supporters of a relaxation of laws on land ownership say the reform would boost Brazil's recession-hit economy and increase food production.

Opponents fear the change could lead to the displacement of small farmers who produce most of the food consumed in Brazil as lead to further deforestation. Land deals, they say, would not be transparent and easily monitored.

Here are the views of some experts who have been monitoring the proposed changes:

JEAN BLAYLOCK, POLICY OFFICER AT GLOBAL JUSTICE NOW, A LONDON-BASED CAMPAIGN GROUP

"These changes send a very worrying signal that the Temer government could be about to undermine the achievements in reducing hunger of the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program.

The most important investors in agriculture are farmers themselves, whose actual investment dwarves that of foreign investors.

Land law needs to protect and strengthen the rights of local communities and farmers, especially small-scale farmers, rather than chasing illusory foreign investment – which all too often only benefits elites."