Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2014 Contents A34
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 6, 2014
No signs identify a barren field
in northeastern Brazil that was
meant to be the centre of one of
China s most ambitious agricultural
forays into South America.
In 2011, Chongqing Grain Group
Corp announced plans to build a soy
crushing plant, railways and a giant
inland storage and transportation hub
to export goods back to China. The
total price tag: US$2 billion.
Yet today, the company has only
managed to bulldoze a 100-hectare
area on which the crushing plant
might one day stand. Even that proj-
ect is on hold, though.
The stalled plans are an example
of the difficulties facing once-promis-
ing Chinese investments here. Brazil s
notorious bureaucracy, its slowing
economy and a deep-seated mistrust
of China s hunger for land and com-
modities all appear to explain why
the field is still empty.
Long delays in Chinese projects
A Reuters investigation found that
after a rush of investment announce-
ments in recent years, as many as
two-thirds of Chinese projects in
Brazil face lengthy delays or never
get off the ground.
The government of Bahia state says
the Chongqing Group s plans are still
"It s just in bureaucratic processes,"
said Josalto Alves, spokesman for
Bahia s agriculture department.
Alves said the company is still eval-
uating infrastructure projects.
Margaret Myers, programme direc-
tor for China and Latin America at
the Inter-American Dialogue, a Wash-
ington-based think tank, suspects
the delays are about more than red
Chongqing Grain Group originally
planned to not only build the plant,
but also acquire large expanses of
surrounding farmland, according to
Brazilian media reports.
Worries about a 'land grab'
At the time, Brazilian legislators
expressed worries that China was
interested in securing as many nat-
ural resources as it could, with little
benefit to Brazil, one of the few
countries in the world with new
land available for agriculture.
Myers said the Chongqing project
was widely perceived as a "land grab."
As negotiations for its terms were
underway in 2010, the Brazilian gov-
ernment tightened restrictions on
foreign land ownership---a move that
officials privately said was mostly
aimed at China.
Brazil s slowing economy has also
prompted many foreign investors to
scale back their projects here.
In 2010, Brazil s economy grew 7.5
per cent and some believed it was
set to join the ranks of developed
nations by the end of this decade.
But because of poor infrastructure
and a stagnant government reform
agenda, the economy has averaged
just two per cent growth since then.
Hungry to revive growth, other
officials have been much more wel-
coming of the Chinese. Bahia s state
government spent years wooing
Chongqing Group and even has an
office in China.
Brazil's top trading partner
China buys the bulk of soy shipped
from Brazil and neighbouring Argenti-
na and is Brazil s top trading part-
ner.Chinese agricultural companies
appear to be changing their approach
following recent challenges, however.
Instead of controlling the entire soy-
bean production chain, as they aimed
to do in Bahia, they have focused
recently on acquisitions of existing
On Wednesday, China s largest
grain trader COFCO Corp agreed to
pay US$1.5 billion for a majority stake
in Singapore-based Noble Group Ltd s
The purchase followed COFCO s
February agreement to buy a 51 per
cent stake in Dutch grain trader
Nidera, in what was the first major
purchase in a trading house by a state-
owned Chinese agricultural compa-
ny.COFCO will now be able to pur-
chase soy supplies from Brazil and
other top producers directly, and
process them into animal feed at
home. That would allow the Chinese
to avoid working with the big four
grain brokers ADM (ADM.N), Bunge
Ltd (BG.N), Cargill Inc CARG.UL and
Louis Dreyfus Corp LOUDR.UL.
That may be more viable than try-
ing to get into the farming game in
Brazil, where US and European based
trading firms have crushed and bro-
kered soybeans for decades. (Reuters)
Big Chinese soy project in Brazil:
So far, just an empty field
A general view of terrain where Chongqing Grain Group's Universo Verde
subsidiary planned to build a soybean manufacturing and processing plant,
near Barreiras in Bahia state, northeastern Brazil, on February 7.
men in Jamaica have shot 11 peo-
ple, killing a 12-year-old boy and
Police say the gunmen opened
fire late Friday in the Denham
Town neighbourhood just west
of the capital of Kingston. Author-
ities blame the shooting on gang
members fighting to control ter-
ritory once run by Christopher
Coke. The former gang leader was
sentenced in a New York court in
2012 to 23 years for drug traffick-
ing and is now in a South Carolina
PANAMA CITY---Counting down
his final weeks in office, Panamanian
President Ricardo Martinelli yester-
day inaugurated the most emblem-
atic project of a five-year term
marked by fast economic growth
and more than a hint of hubris---
Central America s first subway sys-
The metro will surely alleviate the
booming capital s dreadful traffic. But
critics say the US$2 billion spent on
the nine-mile (14-kilometre) rail line
would have been better used building
a higher-capacity surface transport
network and expanded bus system.
The critics also are unhappy about
what they consider Saturday evening s
over-the-top party, with a free con-
cert and fireworks, to celebrate the
new subway. They call it a political
stunt a month before Panama s elec-
tions to drum up support for Mar-
tinelli s preferred successor, former
Housing Minister Jose Domingo Arias.
Trains themselves won t start run-
ning a full schedule until Monday.
Martinelli, who leaves office July
1, isn t fazed by the criticism. Notably
brash with friends and foes alike, the
62-year-old supermarket magnate
hasn t tired of boasting that he has
accomplished more in five years than
was done in the previous 50. He has
an approval rating of 60 per cent,
and relishes the chance of getting his
chosen successor elected, which no
incumbent Panamanian president has
done since democracy was restored
"This is a project that makes the
opposition burn," Roberto Henriquez,
a presidential aide, said. "But gen-
tleman, I m sorry: The metro is a
reality, and next week we ll be deliv-
ering the benefits to all the people."
Since Martinelli took office in 2009,
Panama has spent upward of US$15
billion on infrastructure improve-
ments, including new hospitals, air-
ports and 990 miles (1,600 kilome-
tres) of highways. The subway is
Panama s second costliest project in
the past century, surpassed only by
the current US$5.25 billion expansion
of the Panama Canal that began
before he became President.
"Never has a government done so
much for a country and its people,"
proclaims a TV ad featuring the sub-
way and a catchy, merengue-tinged
chorus of "Promises Fulfilled."
The government hasn t announced
how much a ride will cost. Instead,
it is waiving fares for the first few
months in what analysts say is a clear
attempt to boost the candidacy of
the little-known Arias, who holds a
narrow lead in most polls over former
Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos
Panama s region-leading infra-
structure is a point of pride for many
of the country s 3.4 million people,
although the spending hasn t been
without controversy. (AP)
Panama's president unveiling
subway ahead of vote
Police: 11 people shot
in Jamaica, 2 killed
A volcano just south of Ecuador's capital Quito has erupted, creating a
spectacular plume of ash, 10km (six miles) high. The Tungurahua
volcano created this huge cloud on Friday in an eruption that lasted just
five minutes. Tungurahua means "Throat of Fire" in the local Quechua
language. The volcano has been erupting since 1999, but has been
particularly active in the last two months. Tungurahua is one of eight
active volcanoes in Ecuador, which lies in the so-called Pacific Ring of
Fire. PHOTO: REUTERS
'THROAT OF FIRE' ERUPTS IN ECUADOR
Guyana have closed a govern-
ment office that regulated the
sale of gold after discovering that
millions of dollars worth of gold
had been laced with silver.
The country s Natural
Resources Ministry says the office
in the southwest jungle town of
Bartica would gold plate the mix
of silver and gold and then ship
it to the capital as pure gold.
Officials said late Friday that
several government employees
have been detained. No one has
been charged yet, and the inves-
tigation is ongoing.Gold is
Guyana s main export. (AP)
gold fraud scheme
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