Press Release

26.7 Million Hectares of Land in Investors’ Hands

New report by the Land Matrix initiative takes stock of situation.

Hamburg/Pretoria/Rome/Bern/Montpellier, 11 October 2016. Around the world, 26.7 million hectares of agricultural land have been transferred into the hands of investors since the year 2000. This means that these investors possess approximately 2 per cent of the arable land worldwide, or roughly the equivalent of the total area covered by the United Kingdom and Slovenia together. This finding comes from a new report entitled Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture, which was released today.

The report provides detailed information on who is buying up farmland in which regions of the world and how this land is being used. It also highlights the economic, social, and political impacts of land grabs.

“We are observing not only that more and more agricultural lands have changed hands, but also that they are increasingly being actively cultivated and used – for example, to grow grain, oil palms, and sugar cane,” said GIGA research fellow Dr. Kerstin Nolte, one of the report’s authors. “The impacts for local communities will likely further intensify in the coming years.”

“The report is very relevant considering the recent decision by the International Criminal Court to hold company executives, politicians and other individuals criminally responsible for environmental destruction and land grabbing,” said Wytske Chamberlain, a University of Pretoria researcher and co-author of the report.

Additional findings from the report: • Around the world, 1,004 signed agreements on agricultural land (so-called “land deals”) exist. • For approximately 70 per cent of these deals (710), agricultural activities have been initiated. • Africa is the continent most impacted by land grabs, with 422 deals covering a total area of 10 million hectares. Other heavily impacted regions are Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. • The agreements primarily target areas previously used for agriculture. This creates increased competition for land and the potential for conflicts with the local population. • Most of the investors are from Malaysia, the United States, Great Britain, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. Western European investors are involved in 315 land deals covering an area of 7.3 million hectares, which makes Western Europe the largest investor region. • According to the current data, Germany is involved in 26 land deals covering a total area of 433,000 hectares.

The report is downloadable at

About the Land Matrix The Land Matrix is a global and independent initiative that collects data on land acquisitions in low- and middle-income countries. Its goal is to promote transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment. It is coordinated by a network of international research institutions and organisations. The GIGA manages the global database of the Land Matrix, evaluating the data on a regular basis.

About the GIGA The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) is an independent social science research institute based in Hamburg, Germany. Our mission is to analyse political, social, and economic developments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as global issues.


Verena Schweiger

Head of Communications Department

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