Grain, a research group that supports small farmers, says pension funds - often managed by private companies on behalf of unions, governments, individuals and employers - are investing US$100bn (¬£62.4bn) in commodities, with some $5bn-$15bn reportedly going into farmland acquisitions.
"We usually read about Gulf states or China investing in farmland, but some of the biggest investors are much closer to home," said Henk Hobbelink, one of Grain's co-founders. "As a percentage of the total funds they manage it is not large, but in terms of their impact on small farmers it has a tremendous impact."
International investment in farmland in developing countries, such as Sudan and Ethiopia, has sparked accusations from Grain and other NGOs of "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, while contributing to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world. Grain also says the new surge of money will push up global food prices that will hit the poor and rural communities the hardest.