Family farms produce 80 percent of world's food, speculators seek land

Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:42am EDT
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By Chris Arsenault

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Despite renewed interest in industrial agriculture by investment banks and sovereign wealth funds, more than 80 percent of the world's food is still produced by family farmers, according to new U.N. research published on Thursday.

More than 500 million family farms manage between 70 and 80 percent of the world's agricultural land, the U.N.'s "The State of Food and Agriculture 2014" reported.

Some analysts, however, worry that family farms are under increasing pressure from speculators, as prices for land rise due to a growing world population.

Speculative capital is moving into agriculture, threatening family farmers, said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with the international organization GRAIN.

"It's a structural change, you have companies who weren't investing in agriculture now jumping in: hedge funds, pension funds, different elites and governments," Kuyek told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Only 1 percent of the world's farms are larger than 50 hectares, but this small group controls 65 percent of the world's agricultural land, the FAO report said.

Farms smaller than one hectare account for 72 percent of all farms, but control only 8 percent of agricultural land.

"The highly skewed pattern of farm sizes at the global level largely reflects the dominance of very large farms in high-income and upper-middle-income countries and in countries where extensive livestock grazing is a dominant part of the agricultural system," the report said.   Continued...

A worker inspects tomatoes in the family owned farm "Kligeni" in Cesis August 22, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins