Excessive agricultural footprint

Other Names:
Ghost acres

Many of the developed countries use very large additional amounts of land in other countries to grow their agricultural inputs and other foods. These are also called the ghost acres. Ghost acres are economically efficient because the true costs of exploiting land in places like Brazil and Thailand, and the true costs of shipping the crops, such as animal feed to Europe, are not reflected in the price of the food consumers buy. Export commodities grown on ghost acres distort a developing country's agricultural economy, encouraging small farmers to participate in growing cash crops for export rather than food crops for local needs.


The UK farms two acres abroad for every one farmed at home. In total more than 386,000 square miles of land in the South is exploited in this way, equivalent to four times the land area of the UK.

These include some 44 million ghost acres in Thailand alone (ie an area about the size of Ireland) devoted to supplying manioc for European cattle. Brazil has become a major supplier of soya beans for European animal feed, but to do this it has to cut down a quarter of its Cerrada plateau forest, some 12 million acres, causing immeasurable damage.

Related Problems:
Inappropriate cash crop policy
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST