Faced with ever increasing demand for more ‘meat and potatoes’ food stocks, China has been aggressively acquiring arable land in Africa, Argentina and the Ukraine. Now Russia has sold the entire Republic of Ingushetia to China for an undisclosed sum.
China has made substantial agricultural investments elsewhere, buying up 250,000 hectares to grow soya bean and corn in Argentina, soya bean plantations in Brazil, and purchasing 3 million hectares of farmland in Ukraine for wheat and pigs.
Ingushetia is attractive to China for its water resources and forests; with a land mass of over 3,500 square kilometres and only 400,000 inhabitants it is distinctly rural, with a few small cities. Scenic mountains and green pastures add to Ingushetia’s tourist appeal.
Russia is happy to find new ‘owners’ for the land of the Ingush. Bordering on North Ossetia and Chechnya, Ingushetia is in the middle of a simmering zone of discontent and potential conflict. A buffer of foreign landlords might help to stabilize the region, especially if it brings new employment and investment opportunities.
China is bound to ship in its own farm managers and officials, but any boost to the regional economy will be welcomed. Ingushetia has been mired in poverty for decades – possibly the fundamental reason for the enmity towards mother Russia. If agri-business booms, perhaps peace will come to this troubled state at last. Even if the new bosses are Chinese.
In Africa, farmland can be bought for as little as US$500 per hectare. No doubt China is willing to pay four times as much for the fertile lands of Ingushetia; but will they ever regret their purchase?