Falklands: a market-garden industry takes off

To become less vulnerable to antagonistic neighbours these susceptible islands have opted for self-sufficiency.

Oil discovery and continued prospecting have put the spotlight back on the Falklands. Argentina's President Kirchner (popularising during the run-up to October 23 elections) has "heightened tensions over British sovereignty and renewed Argentine attempts to disrupt shipping in the area as British companies explore the region for oil." reports The Telegraph.  The paper says she "decreed last year that all ships sailing though waters between the Argentine coast and the Falklands must hold a permit to do so."

So Falklanders are understandably concerned about supplies of food. Grow their own, they thought. The Falkland Islands Development Corporation maintains that "64 per cent of the produce could be grown in fields or polytunnels in the Falklands." According to The Telegraph, "around 12,000 eggs are also imported by plane once a fortnight. Grants will be made available for new businesses seeking to help supply fresh produce on the islands."  David Waugh, FIDC General Manager, told the newspaper the object was "not to attract keen gardeners or hobbyists, but to encourage and assist professional, serious business minded operators."

With crude oil prices near a three year high, the four prospectors working in the waters around the Falklands have irked the Argentines who persist in their questionable claim to the islands. Rockhopper, one oil firm, signalled a viable find earlier this year, and now indicates a second well to the west of that discovery may also be productive. The Independent reports "325 million barrels of oil could be produced."  Other journalists say Rockhopper estimates that using seismic tests up to 1 billion barrels could be extracted from the entire Sea Lion prospect. Three more firms are at present drilling in the territory: Desire, Falkland Oil & Gas, and Borders & Southern. There are hopes that "the remote South Atlantic archipelago could become a new centre for oil production" says The Independent.

While the Mount Pleasant base is manned by a UK contingent, Falkland sovereignty remains unthreatened.  But should UK budget cuts result in a scale-down or even military withdrawal, the islands will become unbearably vulnerable. But I think that's unlikely. 

Oil might save the day for the plucky Falklanders. And the islands' proximity to the Antarctic gives them added clout. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty comes up for renewal in 2041, and seven of the signatory nations have overlapping claims to the continent. Protection of the Antarctic environment might be at risk as that date draws near, given dwindling global resources. As China, India and other emerging economies fuel growth and demand ever more hard commodities, the pressure might build to fever pitch to tap Antarctica's unquantified subterranean wealth.

And whichever country controls the Falklands has a better chance of protecting its Antarctic claim.

The Antarctic signatories with claims are:
  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Chile
  4. France
  5. New Zealand
  6. Norway
  7. United Kingdom
As the ice-caps melt, so the temperatures of the Falklands will also rise, and both viability and attractiveness of these islands will grow. Already the existing tiny population of 3,140 sports the highest per capita GDP in South America. Maybe they've only just scratched the surface of their potential. Their 12,173 sq km of farmland, fiords and sounds surrounded by clear if chilly waters may one day be viewed as a paradise as the equatorial belt becomes almost uninhabitable. Who knows?  But developing a productive food industry at this stage might well be foresighted.

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