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Argentine farmers demand regulations limiting foreign ownership of land

Saturday, August 21st 2010 - 13:44 UTC
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The Benetton family are the largest foreign landowners with 900.000 hectares The Benetton family are the largest foreign landowners with 900.000 hectares

The number of land in the hands of foreigners in Argentina has almost tripled in the last 10 years, a phenomenon that is spreading to areas that are rich in natural resources and that is affecting small towns that are finding themselves enclosed within the domains of large landholders.

At the beginning of the 21st century, about 7 million hectares were in the hands of foreigners, but this has increased in the past decade to 20 million hectares according to Argentine Agrarian Federation, or FAA, figures.

FAA is an association of small and medium farmers who now are demanding a halt to the tendency.

“Here, two factors are combining: on the one hand, there is no kind of regulation, and on the other, the price of land in Argentina does not exceed 20,000 USD per hectare for the best soils, while in India, for example the cost is 200,000 Euros per hectare” said Congressman Pablo Orsolini from the opposition.

Orsolini is working on a bill addressing the issue of foreign land ownership.

The bill, introduced in March, establishes the conditions under which a foreigner may buy land, among which he or she must be a resident, and it limits the amount of land that may be bought: for example, no more than 25% of the territory within a municipality or district may be in the hands of foreigners.

The idea of setting limits to land purchasing by foreigners also seems to have the approval of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner administration.

“There must be a law defending the right for land to remain in the hands of Argentines,” one of the “main activities” of the country that “will be very much in demand in the future,” Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez said last week.

The government has not drafted a bill, but it feels that, because of the growing worldwide need to produce food and the resulting search for productive farmland, “Argentine land must be safeguarded” said Agriculture Ministry officials.

The largest foreign landholder in Argentina is Italy’s Benetton family, which owns about 900,000 hectares, most of it in Patagonia and dedicated to the production of wool for the family’s textile empire.

“But there are many foreigners who don’t buy to produce, but rather to position themselves in places with water, mineral resources and hydrocarbons and in strategic border zones,” Orsolini said.

Currently, the only regulation limiting possession of land by foreigners is a 1944 decree that restricts acquisitions in border areas and zones that are key to national security, a regulation that – according to the lawmaker – is not adhered to.

“For example, Briton Joe Lewis bought land in Rio Negro and built a landing strip 500 meters from the maritime coast in a national security zone,” Orsolini said.
Lewis, the former owner of the Hard Rock Cafe, became famous locally when he bought 18,000 hectares of land in Patagonia and stopped public access to the Hidden Lake paradise, a situation that resulted in a lawsuit.

Other large and famous landowners include US media mogul Ted Turner and US/British Hungarian born financier George Soros.

The Benetton family are the largest foreign landowners with 900.000 hectares 

Categories: Economy, Argentina.

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • harrier61

    Hey, it's only 200,000 square kilometres. Plenty of room left to build slums and shanty towns on!

    Aug 21st, 2010 - 01:59 pm 0
  • avargas2001

    I think a land reform is a good idae for Argentina.

    Aug 22nd, 2010 - 05:17 am 0
  • harrier61

    Starting by returning the land to the indigenous people from whom it was stolen.

    Aug 22nd, 2010 - 12:27 pm 0
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