TRANSNATIONAL corporations in the food and agricultural goods markets are undermining the fight against poverty in developing countries, a new report from ActionAid says.

The organisation argues that there is an urgent need for stronger regulation of trade and for legislation regarding corporate accountability.

The companies are “draining wealth from rural communities, marginalisaing small-scale farming, and infringing people‘s rights”, according to the report.

They do this, the report says, by exercising their market power to raise the price of agricultural inputs, engage in unfair buying practices, shut local companies out of markets and pus down prices for farmers‘ goods.

The report points out that the last two decades of economic liberalization have enabled transnational corporations to expand enormously in size, power and influence in developing countries.

“A wave of mergers, acquisitions and business alliances in the agrifood industry has concentrated enormous market power amongst these corporations,” the report says.

According to ActionAid, the top 30 food retailing corporations in the world account for one-third of global grocery sales; five companies control 75% of the international grain trade; and six companies control 75-80% of the global pesticides market.

The report moreover states that 85% of all recent fines imposed on global cartels were paid by agrifood companies.

“It is a dangerous situation when so few companies control so many lives,” John Samuel of ActionAid told The Guardian.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation told the newspaper that the British food industry‘s success “is closely linked to those at the beginning of the food supply chain”, adding that “Britain, the world‘s fourth largest food importing country, invests heavily and provides an enormous market for developing world farmers”.