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Divide and purchase

How land ownership is being concentrated in Colombia

Colombian law sets limits on the purchase of land previously awarded by the state to beneficiaries of agrarian reform processes, in order to avoid concentration of ownership and to preserve the social function of this land. Yet between 2010 and 2012, Cargill – the largest agricultural commodity trader in the world – acquired 52,576 hectares of such land in Colombia’s Altillanura region through 36 shell companies created for that purpose. As a result, Cargill may have managed to evade the legal restriction through a method of fragmented purchases, exceeding the maximum size of land permitted by law for a single owner by more than 30 times. The resolution of this and other similar cases that contribute to rural unrest will test the policy coherence of the Colombian government, which has recently faced major national protests over agrarian problems, while having committed itself at peace talks to a more democratic distribution of land and to strengthening the small-farm economy. 

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