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February 14, 2012

Brazilian agribusinesss Agricola looks to Mozambique for expansion

SLC Agricola turned the tables on the wave of foreign interest in Brazilian farmland by seeking farms outside the South American country, probably in Africa, in a drive to expand its empire.

The farm operator, based in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, unveiled an "internationalization plan" which will see it acquire, and plant, foreign farmland by 2015-16.

"The initial focus will be the African continent," SLC Agricola said, adding that it was to study Mozambique "in depth."

The foreign quest will supercharge a drive to increase its farmland by 2020-21 to 700,000 planted acres, of which 20% will be abroad, implying 140,000 hectares in foreign acquisitions. SLC's current land bank spans 300,000 hectares, including conservation areas, all in Brazil.

The move contrasts with a scramble for South American land by many foreign investors, particularly in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia which are large food importers.

Both Argentina and Brazil, South America's top two farming nations, have drawn up restrictions on foreign ownership of land, although such reforms have provoked controversy. Brazil is still, 18 months after issuing interim restrictions, in reaction to talk of Chinese plans for large-scale land purchases, to unveil definitive rules.

However, the growing expense of South American farms is prompting many Brazilians to join the throng of investors seeking foreign plots, relying on agricultural expertise, as well as money, for success in what can be a politically-charged process to win deals.

Mozambique has appeared particularly welcoming to Brazilian farmers, with Mozambican farm minister José Pacheco raising the topic on a visit to the South American country last year.

Pinesso Group, based in the major Brazilian agricultural state of Mato Grosso, has unveiled plans to expand its African operations, centered in Sudan, into Mozambique.

In September 2011, farmland investment company Agrifirma Brazil – whose backers include Lord Rothschild, which is advised by commodities investor Jim Rogers? revealed it was to place most of its Brazilian farm operations into a joint venture and seek "attractive opportunities elsewhere.”

full article...Agrimoney

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