Underreported: Outsourcing Agriculture

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It’s estimated that China will send 1 million farm workers to Africa this year. It’s part of a growing trend of countries outsourcing their food production. On this week’s Underreported, John Parker, Globalization Correspondent for the Economist and Dr. Joachim von Braun, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, look at the impact on the countries where the food is grown, and on the countries where that food is eaten. John Parker's article Outsourcing's Third Wave appeared in the May 21 issue of the Economist.


John Parker

Comments [14]


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Jul. 23 2009 07:35 AM
Adam from United States

This is a good article. We need more awareness about the issue of neocolonialism. On one side this exploitation of Africa's resources is a positive thing because it will ultimately lead to more food production. The potential problem is that these African nations are too weak and unorganized to nationalize the farming and mining operations if China oversteps itself. A good article that expands on this issue can be found here:

Jun. 22 2009 02:13 AM
Mia MacDonald from Brooklyn

Very interesting segment. China is a big player in the global food story, particularly as (as Parker noted) its middle class eats more meat and dairy. For more on this phenomenon in China -- intensification of animal agriculture following the Western "model" -- check out Brighter Green's report, Skillful Means: the Challenges of China's Encounter with Factory Farming ( PDF is here:

Jun. 05 2009 11:35 AM

MW -- I assume you either have never been to China, or you are an employee of that country's govt? Keep up that progressives' skepticism, man! This doesn't sound like propaganda, China is smart to do this if true, and I am guessing it would be quite easy to ask the guests prove this strategy if Leonard asked. There is most likely a Chinese dept. of farmland emigration or food security orchestrating this (I know other regional countries have such depts.). Don't assume China would deny any of this, I'm guessing they are quite proud of these activities, as they arguably should be.

Jun. 04 2009 01:53 PM
MW from Manhattan

Smidley hit the fear target on the bullseye!
Hear comes the "Yellow Peril" crap all over again.
As China moves into the No1 position look for the fear to get even more frantic. God forbid those Black and Asians get together and start doing things without a Western "overseer"

Jun. 04 2009 01:52 PM
MW from Manhattan

To JP A rule of logic is not to make a "one to many comparison flaw" I suggest you download and listen to the Princeton Review's great series " LSAT Logic in Everyday Life" Oh but if more of us used these rules in thinking and drawing collusions. and SAM I am right behind you.. the Europeans love to point out the "big bad third world, every chance they can get" Aren't you so glad to be in their bosom?

Jun. 04 2009 01:48 PM

And it sounds like the country with the world's biggest population may have also come up with a decent resettlement strategy as much of their own country's farmland turns literally to dust...

Jun. 04 2009 01:43 PM
MW from Manhattan

"It’s estimated that China will SEND 1 million FARM WORKERS to Africa this year" I have been listening to this show to hear some info about this alarmist statement.... so far there has been NO support for the rumor, just vague statements and now the statement is refuted.. and a rumor is exactly what it is until I hear the facts to support it. I notice that there is this drone of Anti Chinese propaganda, enuendo, and rumor that is pretty rife in the western press. Just like this show, statements are thrown out but no logic, facts or info to support them. I am a logical skeptic, and when I don't get the follow up to the accusations, I start to become a conspiracy theorist. (maybe ironically) Why are you telling me this and what are you trying to get me to believe?
Ra Look I am for Tibetian autonomy as much as everyone else is, but why do we progressives have to resort to "false light" associations in order to generate an "ominious Chinese" atmosphere (you HEAR me NEW YORK TIMES?). Believe the Economist and the British? A more right wing, colonial justifying rag there never was. Stop trying to manipulate my unconscious.

Jun. 04 2009 01:42 PM
JP from Garden State

MW from Manhattan,

NPR just did a report on the relation of high cancer rates on farms in India due to farmers using to much fertilizer and pesticides that are not for free and are also expensive (they are expensive everywhere). Rural Indian farmers are no less educated then rural Chinese farmers. Using logic, it’s not a stretch at all to assume Chinese farmers are having the same over fertilizing problems as Indian farmers.

Jun. 04 2009 01:30 PM

Thanks for the reply MW,

As much as I would love to trust a Chinese or Thai 12 year old conscript farmer to do due diligence on that gas can full of pesticide he was just handed by his boss, I still thought it logical to run the query by the good Dr. von Braun...

Jun. 04 2009 01:30 PM
sam from brooklyn

It is more than a little ironic that someone from one of the world's most aggressive and deadly colonial powers in the history of humanity - "Great" Britain is lambasting countries who had suffered greatly under his country's rule.

I'm not supporting the exploitation of poor, emerging countries by any means but seriously look in the mirror first before pointing fingers at other people.

Jun. 04 2009 01:23 PM
MW from Manhattan

Fertilizer in China is made in China and the instructions are printed in Chinese. Fertilizer is not FREE, its expensive and farmers like all rational people will not use more of an expensive product that they must buy then they need to produce the crop they want. Let's use logic when we listen to the "news" and hear and read "reports".

Jun. 04 2009 01:14 PM

Lots of Asians living in America won't eat food grown in Asia (often found in bottles/jars/cans/frozen packs) because they are familiar with growing practices there.

Specifically, the farmers use FAR too much pesticide because they can't read the English language instructions on the pesticide bags, because they can't read English (or often anything at all!). I have heard this in Asia too, from Asians, for the same reason. Comment? And does this relate to outsourced farmers as well?

Jun. 04 2009 12:32 PM

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