Associated British Foods rejects Oxfam’s land grab accusations

Associated British Foods (ABF) has released a statement in response to a report published by Oxfam yesterday which alleged that ABF, along with beverage giant Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, were not being proactive enough in stopping sugar land grabs throughout their network of suppliers.

ABF say that there is no evidence of any ‘land grabs’ on its behalf and as such were unsure as to why the company was included in the report.

The Oxfam report highlights examples of land grabs and disputes that are linked to companies that supply sugar to both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, as well as allegations of land disputes among suppliers of Associated British Foods.

ABF have stated that the company, including its African subsidiary lllovo is, and always has been ‘hugely sensitive to issues of land ownership.’

The statement reads:

“In South Africa, Illovo has distributed more company-owned cane land to black farmers than any other sugar company in that country and did so voluntarily, earlier than required by legislation.  It has a fine record of working with those farmers to ensure the continued commercial viability of that land and it runs important and innovative programs with government and with famers in KwaZulu-Natal to ensure the long-term sustainability of farms now under black ownership.  Illovo is a strategic partner with the South African government in the transformation of land reform / ownership in South Africa.”

“Throughout its operations in Africa, Illovo has been scrupulous in its approach to land ownership.  In Mali, land earmarked by the government to be developed to irrigated sugar cane agriculture would have been held by a state-owned company for the continued benefit of the local community and farmers.  That project, sadly, was terminated following the coup d’état in 2012.  Had this public-private partnership project gone ahead, it would have had the potential to transform the lives of that community.”

ABF says that any proposed expansion of its operations involves creating partnerships and negotiations with local communities, and sights its work in Mozambique as a prime example.

ABF say that Oxfam criticised the company and lllovo, for refusing to sign a pledge on land ownership. ABF and lllovo stated that both companies prefer to acts on their beliefs and standards as opposed to signing pledges.

“Pledges are cheap and plentiful.  The history of Africa is full of them.  The true test of any organisation is what it actually does. ABF and Illovo prefer to act on their beliefs and standards rather than pontificate about them,” the statement read.

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