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The economic divide among countries worldwide carries over into patterns of land purchases and sales. The United States and large economies and trading markets of Asia and the Middle East represent at least 30 percent of global land purchases since 2000, according to the LandMatrix, an independent land monitoring initiative. In contrast, the largest sellers of land globally include Russia—also among the top buyers—as well as developing countries of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

  • Since 2000, the United States has been the most active country in the world in land trade, purchasing roughly 4 million hectares of land worldwide, which is equivalent to the land area of Switzerland.
  • Malaysia ranks a close second, accounting for 3.9 million hectares of land purchases during the same period, followed by Russia, China, and Singapore to round out the top 5.
  • The largest amount of land sold belongs to Russia (6.3 million hectares), followed by Papua New Guinea (4 million hectares) and Brazil (3.8 million hectares).  Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ukraine each closely follow Brazil in total land area sold.

LandMatrix seeks data on land transactions to improve transparency and accountability in the transfer of land rights. The initiative focuses in particular on land for agricultural production, timber extraction, carbon trading, industry, renewable energy production, conservation, and tourism in low- and middle-income countries. Since 2000, growing of wood and fiber was the leading reason for land purchases, followed by the purchase of land for growing food crops and for access to biofuels.


Disclaimer from the LandMatrix: The data should not be taken as a reliable representation of reality. Reality is fast-changing as deals are changed, annulled, or new ones spring up. Many deals are not yet included in the database. As an open tool, the Observatory allows wide participation in constantly upgrading, correcting and improving the information it contains. Over time, with your help, it will become more accurate. 


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