Despite the well-publicized abandonment of Daewoo Logistics’ gigantic agricultural project, large-scale land appropriations continue in Madagascar. Drawing on three case studies, this article analyses how relations between entities governing land access shape, and are shaped by, agribusiness-related land deals. State representatives and local elites generally welcome agribusiness investments but find themselves competing over the corresponding benefits and over land management more generally. In a context of legal pluralism, competition occurs between state officials, between state and local actors and also within the local arena. Both state and local elites may seek to reassert their authority by imposing new constraints on investors’ access to land. Within the state, officials draw on different legal provisions to impose new procedures on investors but rarely enforce the 2005 land laws that recognize local rights and decentralize land management. Within the local arena, some local leaders seize upon investors’ land claims to extend their territory at the expense of other communities, awakening or exacerbating local land conflicts. As a consequence, investors struggle to obtain land-use rights, whether legally formalized by state institutions or socially recognized by local entities, while the future of local land rights also remains uncertain.