U.S. pension fund under pressure to go public with Brazil land deals
By Chris Arsenault
TORONTO, Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.S. investment firm that manages U.S., Canadian and Swedish pension funds came under pressure on Tuesday to give locations of its land investments in Brazil as coalition of campaign groups voiced concerns about the impact on local farmers.
TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture LLC, a fund managed by the New York-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity, has invested about $8 billion in international farmland assets since 2007 when world food prices spiked, the company reported in August.
Partnering with local investors, the company's land investment in Brazil more than doubled between 2012 and the end of 2014 to reach 633,392 acres, up from 257,877 acres two years earlier, documents from TIAA-CREF show.
But TIAA-CREF does not disclose the specific locations of its Brazilian properties, citing commercial confidentiality, despite a publicly stated commitment to transparency and responsible investment.
Buying farmland is often seen by investors as a way to diversify portfolios but some governments and activists are concerned these deals displace local farmers and give crucial food-producing resources to foreign conglomerates for export.
A report from GRAIN, the Brazilian Social Network for Justice, Inter Pares and Solidarity Sweden said some of the land purchased with the help of a local partner had forced farmers off their land although it did not provide figures.
Much of the land was now being used for industrial plantations to grow sugar cane, soy beans and other cash crops, researchers said.
"For years these pension funds have refused to provide specifics of their land deals in Brazil, saying we should trust their due diligence procedures," said Annelie Andersson from Solidarity Sweden, one of the groups behind the report titled "Foreign Pension Funds and Land Grabbing in Brazil". Continuación...