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Six percent of land owners control two-thirds of Asia’s farmland

Reuters/Beawiharta
A farmer in Bekasi Indonesia in West Java.
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Agrarian reforms across the Asia Pacific region are displacing millions of farmers and threatening social instability, according to a new report by the nonprofit Grain, which advocates for small farmers. As little as 6% of farm owners control two-thirds of the Asia Pacific region’s total farmland, according to the group’s analysis of data from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization,

Put another way, even though small farmers account for as much as 94% of all farms in the region, they control only about a third of all agricultural land. ”Land concentration in Asia is higher now than it has ever been,” the report concludes.

Farmland is being purchased or transferred to companies and government entities for giant mines, dams, highways, and other infrastructure projects in the rapidly developing region, along with large-scale agriculture, tourism projects and real estate development. Policy planners are also keen to consolidate their agricultural industries to achieve larger-scale production and efficiencies of scale.

In Indonesia, the number of small-scale farms fell by 16% over the decade since 2003 while the number of larger scale farms jumped by 54%, the report says. A project to use vast tracts of land in West Papua for food and energy production has led to human rights abuses and intimidate of local residents, according to a government human rights inquiry released late last year.

In Japan, the number of small farms has fallen by 40% since 2000, according to the nonprofit. The percentage of land owned by larger-scale agricultural companies, which has already doubled in about a decade, is likely to grow larger as the country shifts to more corporate farming as a precursor to lowering tariffs on agricultural imports as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Around the world, the proportion of small farms is shrinking—they control less than a quarter of the world’s farmland, according to GRAIN. After stripping out China and India, countries where family-owned farms still dominate, small farms still only command 17.2% of the world’s farmland.

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