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Date [ 2014-03-27, 12:12 ]

Big corporations are displacing natives from their land to  create plantations.

Land grabber from the indians

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) RamaniRathir =Guarani Indians in Brazil have urged Coca-Cola to stop buying sugar from US food giant Bunge, which has been implicated in a landgrabbing scandal.

A recent Oxfam report revealed that Coca-Cola is sourcing sugar from Bunge, which in turn buys sugar cane from land stolen from the Guarani to produce biofuels ‘tainted with Indian blood’. A Guarani spokesman told Survival International, ‘Coca-Cola must stop buying sugar from Bunge. While these companies profit, we are forced to endure hunger, misery, and killings’.

The 370-strong Guarani community of JataYvary in Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state has lost most of its ancestral land to plantations which sell sugar cane to Bunge, and is forced to live on a small patch of land completely surrounded by the crop.

Oxfam’sbriefing shows how one crop – sugar – has been driving large-scale land acquisitions and land conflicts at the expense of small-scale food producers and their families. At least 4m hectares of land have been acquired for sugar production in 100 large-scale land deals since 2000, although given the lack of transparency around such deals, the area is likely to be much greater. In some cases, these acquisitions have been linked to human rights violations, loss of livelihoods and cause of hunger for small-scale food producers and their families.

Major food and beverage companies rarely own land, but they depend on it for the crops they buy, including sugar.These companies must urgently recognize this problem, and take steps to ensure that land rights violations and conflicts are not part of their supply chains.

At least one multi-corporation has responded to this problem swiftly. PepsiCo, one of the companies named by Oxfam, announced new rules for its suppliersspecifically prohibiting the practice.This is in response to Oxfam’s call to some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies to stop buying sugar, palm oil and soy from suppliers that kick people off their land to make way for plantations.

In one example of a land grab from Oxfam, the Brazilian sugar refinery UsinaTrapiche, a supplier to PepsiCo (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO), removed 53 fishing families from their island home in a Sirinhaém River estuary in 2002 and relocated them to a town with electricity, water, sanitation, and schooling, but at a higher cost of living.

“Poor communities across the globe are in dispute or even being kicked off their land, without consultation or compensation, to make way for huge sugar plantations,” according to the report, which questioned a number of sugar suppliers that sell to beverage companies around the world.

UsinaTrapiche denies any wrongdoing. “We believe that UsinaTrapiche has been the target of the most unfounded accusations, such as environmental crimes, social and land struggles, when in fact the company has promoted environmental conservation on Sirinhaém’s mangrove in an admirable way and is acting responsibly in line with the determinations of the Brazilian courts,” the company issued a statement. “Our relationship with all our customers and partners remains intact and we continue to abide by the terms of the determinations of the Brazilian courts.”

PepsiCo spokeswoman, Aurora Gonzalez said, “Each of the suppliers Oxfam questioned in its report has assured us the land they are farming on has been fairly and properly acquired.” Coca-Cola, which has issued its own rules, did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Pepsi’s new policy includes zero tolerance for land displacements of people, requires fair and legal negotiations for land acquisitions and establishes grievance mechanisms such as a hotline for dispute resolution. The company will conduct social and environmental assessments across its supply chain starting in Brazil, its top sugar-sourcing country, by the end of the year, followed by Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines, according to an Oxfam release.

Gonzalez said PepsiCo would enforce the land policy through contracts and audits. In its release, the company said it is aiming to use 100 percent sustainable cane sugar by 2020 and would enlist the help of Bonsucro, a U.K.-based nonprofit association dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production, to do so.

Oxfam declared victory. “Pepsi is now committing to take responsibility for how their ingredients are sourced and for setting clear standards that their suppliers must meet,” said spokesman Ben Grossman-Cohen. Now, proper enforcement by the manufacturers will be critical to making sure the change is real, especially as sugar production increases.

Displaced indians protest over the loss of their land.

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