French banks financing land grabs

17 April 2013

Between 2009 and 2012, French banks granted more than 4 billion euro in loans to European producers of agrofuels, and have issued these companies stocks and bonds for a total amount of more than 3 billion euro according to new research from Friends of the Earth France and Oxfam France. The groups called on French banks to stop financing agrofuel producers – who threaten global food security and are fuelling land grabs, especially in Liberia.

The research reveals that French banks are involved in financing the Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby – implicated in conflicts with local communities in Liberia. Much of the palm oil from Sime Darby's plantations finds its way to the European market for agrofuel.

Oxfam France's report "Agrofuels: the French banks are full" ranks the various French banks that finance European agrofuel producers. BNP Paribas is the largest funder, followed by Societe Generale and Credit Agricole – who hold shares in Sime Darby worth 7.74 million and 4.45 million respectively.

Anne van Schaik, finance campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: "By investing in palm oil, French banks are contributing towards the violation of Liberian law and international agreements on human rights, and damaging local communities. Banks must stop funding companies that that grab land for monoculture plantations. It should invest in renewable energy or projects that promote food sovereignty."

Clara Jamart, Oxfam France, said: "French banks are exacerbating global food insecurity by supporting major producers of agrofuels. Banks like BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole finance the production of biofuels and are complicit in rising food prices and land grabbing in developing countries. This must stop."

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on Sime Darby to ensure communities give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent before they operate on their land, and that all community members benefit from any plantations. Employment rights must be respected; and compensation must be agreed with communities before any contractual agreements are made.

Friends of the Earth Europe calls on French banks to move away from financing companies involved in monoculture projects – which often lead to landgrabbing and deforestation, and to re-direct their investments towards renewable energy or projects that are promote food sovereignty. Banks need to ensure their investments uphold internationally established criteria that ensure the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and respect human rights. Those banks financing Sime Darby should use their influence to ensure the current problems in Liberia are solved. If this proves impossible, they should sell their shares in Sime Darby.