The Unexpected Winners in the Oil and Food Crunch

Article excerpt

Byline: Erika Kinetz

High oil and food prices are a double blow no nation can dodge entirely. Even oil states like Iran are seeing food-price protests. But there's a small class of farm-and-gas exporters for whom the dual spike is more opportunity than threat. Canada, Brazil, Vietnam and Thailand are all enjoying the windfalls, and even war-tattered Cambodia is now reimagining its future. It's "the only country in the world that has oil and gas reserves that are still untapped, as well as land available for agriculture," says Marvin Yeo, who left the Asian Development Bank to start one of Cambodia's first venture-capital firms.

Cambodia's hard-to-access oil and gas fields had been isolated for decades by low petroleum prices and the posttraumatic stress of the Indochina wars. But with oil at $125 a barrel, few fields are too risky, and Chevron, Cnooc, China Petrotech and Total are scrambling to negotiate exploration contracts--even though no one is quite sure yet how big the fields are. In March, the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority estimated the size of Chevron's field, which covers part of one of the country's six promising oil basins, at 500 million barrels and said the oil could flow as early as 2011.

The IMF estimates that oil could bring Cambodia's GDP (only $8.4 million last year) up to $1.7 billion by 2021. …