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27 companies with a strong transnational component and European State capital control the same surface than 25 thousand agricultural and cattle farmers in Uruguay.
Is there land grabbing in Uruguay? A paper written by Professors of the Central Extension and Activities Center (SCEAM) aimed to answer this question, related to the acquisition of land by Northern or rich States in the Global South. The paper was launched at the recent "Food Sovereignty in Uruguay" Forum held in Tacuarembo department, 390 km to the North of Montevideo.
The research conducted by Gabriel Oyhantcabal, Pablo Areosa and Ignacio Narbondo states that 27 business groups present in Uruguay cover 1,641,000 hectares, which amounts to 10% of the agricultural land in Uruguay. This is "practically" the same surface covered by 21,645 production farms registered as family farmers at the Livestock Ministry of the country.
Even though there aren´t lands which were directly acquired by States, the authors of the research introduced the concept of "indirect land grabbing", explaining that several companies and investment groups that have shares in countries such as Finland, Sweden and even Japan, are the owners and exploiters of important extensions of lands.
According to the State University researchers, "land grabbing in Uruguay is not linked to a process of displacement and exclusion of former owners" of the fields, since a "large part of them have granted their property and/or use rights by selling of lending them to the capitals behind these grabbings".
The capitals that acquired lands in Uruguay come mainly from the North of Europe, with 557,679 hectares in 29 transactions; followed by North America with 295,338 hectares in 17 operations and South America with 229,341 hectares in 10 businesses, based on data of July 2014 by Landmatrix, a global watch of land purchase operations.
Forestry companies Montes del Plata, UPM, Weyerhaeuser, Global Forest Partners and Forestal Atlantico Sur are some of the transnational corporations present in Uruguay, while in the agricultural-soy sector we can highlight Union Agriculture Group (UAG), Estancias Ana Paula, Agronegocios del Plata, Cosechas del Uruguay and Argentinean group Bulgheroni.
The writers explained that this form of "transnational grabbing" includes "a specific feature that is the result of the participation of foreign States in the shares of private companies", which they refer to as "indirect land grabbing" by other States.
Recently, a law that warns about land grabbing by States or State companies was passed in Uruguay, although based on the experience with the two main forestry companies, UPM and Stora Enso, the law establishes the possibility for the Executive Branch to push for exceptions.
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