- a Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
- b International Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, 2518AX, The Hague, Netherlands
- Received 1 October 2015, Revised 3 March 2016, Accepted 12 March 2016, Available online 14 April 2016
- This paper reviews history of public Nordic owned farms in Russia and Ukraine.
- Key investors are identified and original expectations detailed.
- Performance of companies shows tensions between stock market and farming.
- Investors underestimated the challenges of agriculture in this region.
- Stock market link to agricultural production is problematic with current conditions.
Situated in the global discussion on large-scale land acquisitions, this paper examines the poor performance of Nordic owned, publicly traded, very large-scale farms (agroholdings) in Russia and Ukraine. In depth study of concrete examples of this emerging farm organization is still rare. This paper investigates the impact of the financialization of agriculture on the performance, agricultural and otherwise, of such farm companies, which is also an emerging field of inquiry. In other words, this paper seeks to go beyond discussion of “land-grabbing” and return to an older question concerning large-scale farming in developing country settings: is it even successful? In unique, exploratory research, the authors have gone “inside” these companies through interviews and attending shareholder meetings. Also, the authors have examined the discourse found in press accounts and corporate documents, the latter an underutilized source in research on corporate mega-farms. We find that finance, usually asserted as an advantage for such large-scale farms, proved in important respects to be incompatible with farming in the investigated companies, as it led to the initial prioritization of short-term speculative strategies over longer-term production-oriented strategies. We further find that investors initially failed to appreciate the unique climatic and other local challenges presented by agriculture, compared to other economic endeavors. Finally we note that these corporations are struggling to demonstrate economies of scale. Our results suggest that, unless conditions change, stock market financed large-scale farming companies are unlikely to play an important role in future direct food production in the region.
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