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Cargill takes heat for Colombian farmland purchases

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An international charity and social justice group is criticizing agribusiness giant Cargill for buying farmland in Colombia intended for small farmers.

Reuters reports the Minnetonka-based company set up 36 "shell" companies, all with the same address, same sole board member, same legal representative and the same economic activity, according to a report by Oxfam International.

The group claims Cargill established the companies to buy a big plot of land, working around the government-set purchasing limits, a key part of the country's land reform effort.

Cargill purchased more than 130,000 acres in the eastern Altillanura plains, which Oxfam claims may have broken the law.

MPR notes that the land purchases by Cargill are equivalent to about four times the area of Minneapolis.

Cargill says it disagrees with Oxfam and that its Colombian farm project complies with the country's laws, the Star Tribune reports.

The company also said it takes a different approach on "responsible agricultural development" in the country.

"Colombia, and the department (state) of Vichada in particular, have great agricultural potential but a long history of underinvestment," Cargill said in a statement. "The land is there, but it is not suitable for growing crops on any scale without significant investment to correct the soils, prepare the land and build the necessary infrastructure."

The investment by Black River Asset Management, a Cargill-owned investment firm, employs 200 workers that raise corn and soybeans to be sold into the domestic market.

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