Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update on Agrokultura and other news

In my last post, I discussed the possibility that Agrokultura (formerly Alpcot Agro) one of the largest Swedish investments in post-Soviet agriculture was about to be liquidated. The question was to be decided on Monday the 11th of November, but, as it turned out, an agreement was reached within the company to continue business. It would appear that there were discussions going on during this time (but I'm certainly not privy to anything and I would not really be interested, except to the degree that the departure point for any discussions reflected different views on the state of the agricultural sector in Ukraine and Russia), and there have been some major staff changes since the company announced the extraordinary shareholder meeting would be canceled, but the important thing is the company will continue on its course of reducing costs and consolidating its land holdings.

On a related note, I want to highlight an FAO report that was published recently on "Emerging investment trends in primary agriculture: a review of equity funds and other foreign-led investments in the CEE and CIS region." (I also want to give a shout out to Oane Visser from the Institute for Social Studies in the Hague who alerted me to this publication). This report focuses on all agricultural investments in this region, but since Sweden is a major player, it puts the Swedish actors in a larger context. Among other things, its says (p. 55): 

"The data show that the companies whose share prices fared best are those that have pursued disciplined business models that emphasize efficiency and performance from the start through a staged expansion process, and which kept costs under control. The best performing companies are all located in Ukraine (e.g. Continental Farming Group and Industrial Milk Company). Top-performing companies expanded from a relatively modest scale in manageable steps. Conversely, the share of prices of companies that acquired large tracts of land in a short time continue to struggle (e.g. Alpcot Agro and Black Earth Farming.)"    

This report also goes some way -- though much more work is needed -- towards differentiating different kinds of investments according to source country, investment vehicle, and destination country or region (including a broader international context) so that we can begin to make distinctions between different types of actors and investments. So for example, the authors of the report cite criticism of land-grabbing in developing countries that such developments may be more harmful than good for local populations, and go on to state: "an increasing body of evidence on the impacts of land grabbing in developing countries now reinforces this viewpoint." But then they say: "there are, however, important differences between land acquisitions and investment processes in CEE and CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and some developing countries (namely those that give rise to the widely criticized land grabbing phenomenon)" (p. xiii).

There's a lot more of interest in this report, so I encourage you to read it. 

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