The Landless Gringos Movement | New Ban on Land Sales to Non-Brazilians

Cane fields, São Paulo. Critics question the wisdom of betting so heavily on monoculture. One hears that these vast stretches make great hiding places for pot cultivation.

It came out it in the Estadao

BRASÍLIA – The government has resolved to ban new sales and mergers, to or with foreigners, of Brazilian firms with landholdings in Brazil. In the view of the federal executive, this type of transaction is being used to get around restrictions imposed last year on the sale to or leasing of lands by foreign investors.

The ban was published in a notice in the Official Diary on Tuesday by the federal attorney-general and the Ministry of Trade and Development, which will pass the message to the industrial sndicates: deals transferring a controlling share in rural properties to strangers will no longer be recognized. According to the order, any such deals already made will be sorted out in the courts..

The industrial synidcates will also aid the title registries to identify foreign capital in firms seeking to buy land.

The initiative by Delopment minister  Luiz Inácio Adams is the latest in a series of attempts to curb foreign ownership of Brazilian land. In August 2010, an opinion by the AGU place the restrictions on Brazilian firms controlled by foreigners individuals or firms as those in place banning sale to foreign individuals.

The decision, coming on the eve of a visit by U.S. President Obama, seems like a shot across the bows of corporate raiders like Monsanto and its partner in the development of a mature global intellectual property market, Microsoft.

But the federal authorities are given plenty of space to explain their rationale:

A single foreign nationality cannot control 10% of the area of a given municipality since the 1970s. These restrictions were removed for Brazilian firms, even those controlled by foreign shareholders, during the Cardoso presidency.

The restrictions were renewed seven months ago and explained in terms of a geopolitical scenario that was stimulating the increase of commodity crops on Brazilian land. “The world food crisis and the expectation of producing biofuel on a large scale, providing a significant amount of ecologically viable energy to the national grid, are the main vectors of this new approach to the question of land title in Brazil,” the AGU argued.

Also alleged in favor of the controls were the rising prices of commodities and speculation in land prices, as well as the need to control deforestation in the Amazon.

The AGU opinion also called attention to the lack of controls over land sales by foreigners. According to the latest estimates, release by Incra last week, foreigners own some 20% of São Paulo state: 4,5 million hectares or 45,000 square hectares — numbers that authorities say do no correspond to reality.

The AGU also took into account reports from ABIN, the Brazilian national intelligence agency, on the advance of foreign ownership of lands in coastal areas of the country

.The measure may also be taken as a sign of determination to make progress toward realizing agrarian reform — an area in which Brazil is stuck somewhere back in the 1870s, by comparison with our history of pioneerism. As one commentator points out:

I believe that “Brazilian land” should never be subject to sale to a firm controlled by foreigners. The solution is easy. All we need is a law banning such ownership, while continuing to exercise oversight of  titles submitted to the registry. What’s more, if a Brazilian landholder falls under foreign control, the right thing to do would be to oblige it to sell said lands, on pain of expropriation for purposes of agrarian reform.

My daly edition of the CNA newsletter has not yet arrived. I will let you all know what the response is.

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