The following is from an interview given by Lynn Forester de Rothschild on portfolio.com, on 5 October 2007.
The article begins with her meeting Sir Evelyn Rothschild at the 1998 Bilderberg conference — the matchmaker being Henry Kissinger! Well, the setting and the cast of characters puts what comes next in a different context.
She is the Chief Executive of E.L. Rothschild, which manages her and Evelyn Rothschild's investments in India - including an innocuous-looking startup, FieldFresh, which grows and exports Indian fruits and vegetables to markets in Europe and Asia. She also said that she has her eyes set on a retail venture aimed at the Indian middle class. (The latter venture is not revealed - except that it is seems to be in the Luxury Goods sector.)
This is what Lynn said about why the Rothschilds chose investing in Indian agriculture over investing in China... "[...] China has 60 percent of the arable land of India, but it's 40 percent more productive because of technology. [...] India is the largest producer of fruits, No. 1 in the world, No. 2 in vegetables, and has only 1 percent of the export market. Seems logical enough... even vaguely, like noblesse oblige.
About FieldFresh, she said: "[...] it was opened by the prime minister [Manmohan Singh]. [...] The Indian prime minister is really, to me, one of the spectacular people of the world, and I've seen him speak many times, and he always reads his speech. That day, he put down his speech and he recited a poem, an English poem that he had learned as a young boy about how the land will give to the people and will change lives — a beautiful poem. And then he talked about being so poor that he couldn't afford shoes — his parents were farmers - and how his dream for India is that 600 million people could be lifted out of poverty. And we're talking about lifting them from 50 cents a day to $2 a day.
Notice the completely mis-matched views? The Rothschilds are looking at exploiting both, the cheap labour of the lower class, and the increasing income of the middle class. While the venerable Indian PM, a veteran economist himself, apparently thinks it's a benevolent enterprise that will help alleviate poverty. Yes, she did say wages would go up to $2 - which is borderline poverty - provided the price of food does not inflate!
The Rothschilds eventually sold part of their stake in FieldFresh to Del Monte, and (Airtel's) Bharti Enterprise came on board. For their trouble the Rothschilds made 85% returns on their $50 million investment. Well, they are the Rothschilds; profiting is an ingrained trait.
Now we have Airtel's Mittals and the Del Monte showing up as Bharti Del Monte India Private Limited. And there is no mention of a Board of Directors or the Rothschilds on the company website.
But the Bloomberg-Businessweek website has it.
The Bharti angle is also interesting, Lynn Rothschild has several strong prior and current connections to the telecom industry. Apparently, she used to buy up frequencies (cellphone spectrum!) in major cities, which she later sold for a premium. In fact, she claims her earlier company had 100 megahertz of bandwidth each, in 15 countries. That was in 2000. Even now, LNG Holding S.A, of which Lynn Rothschild is Co-Chairman, is listed by Bloomberg-Businessweek under "Diversified Telecommunications Service".
Thankfully, India's food security is not entirely in the hands of the Rothschild clan. A whole line-up of Indian billionaires too got on the agri-business bandwagon around the same year - including many of Corporate India's lumineries, from the Mittals and Ambani, to ITC and more.
There are a couple of things that bother me though... First is how the telecom spectrum scam in India that happened in 2008 sounds quite similar to the spectrum-hoarding that Lynn Rothschild carried out in 2000. Perhaps it's a coincidence. Then, there is also the fact that in this 2005 rediff.com article, it seemes that many of the businessmen saw the same great potential in India's agri-sector at about the same time - and are largely following the same decentralised hub-and-spoke business model as well... and I though at least one of them even seemed to repeat something very similar to what Lynn Rothschild says in her 2007 interview.
I wonder if a rotten apple can actually spoil a whole bunch... Nah! I'm just being paranoid.
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