March 9, 2016 / 10:29 AM / a year ago

Concerns over a scramble for resources quiet for now, says World Bank

A person rides his motorbike pass a rice field in Sing Buri Province, Thailand, February 1, 2016.Athit Perawongmetha

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Concerns over competing countries scrambling for resources such as oil, minerals and farmland have decreased recently due to lower commodity and food prices, a World Bank official said.

High oil costs in from 2007 to 2008 contributed to higher food prices and food riots in several developing nations including Haiti, Bangladesh and Mozambique.

But a reduction in petrol prices and other factors mean food prices are currently hovering around a seven-year low, providing relief for low-income consumers.

Prior to 2015, at the height of the commodities boom, sovereign wealth funds and large investors poured money into acquiring long-term access to mines and farmland.

Analysts said this scramble for natural resources disproportionately hurt the poor.

The situation has changed markedly since then, said World Bank official Michael Jarvis.

"I am not sure I see a scramble for resources," Jarvis, the bank's global lead for extractive governance, said in Toronto at a mining industry conference that ends on Wednesday.

"Some of the debates around that have died down due to low commodity prices. But they may come back."

As part of what some analysts considered a rush for resources, an area of farmland larger than Poland was sold or leased to foreign investors, according to a 2014 Swedish study.

To avoid another round of large-scale land deals or fight for natural resources if commodity prices spike again, a coalition of 300 organisations launched a campaign this month to double the amount of land formally owned by communities and indigenous groups.

If demand for commodities rises in the face of a growing global population, formal land ownership for small farmers provides protection against displacement by outside investors, rights campaigners said.

Reporting By Chris Arsenault, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org/

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