Making a killing from hunger

We need to overturn food policy, now!

GRAIN

For some time now the rising cost of food all over the world has taken households, governments and the media by storm. The price of wheat has gone up by 130% over the last year.[1] Rice has doubled in price in Asia in the first three months of 2008 alone,[2] and just last week it hit record highs on the Chicago futures market.[3] For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need. In fear of political turmoil, world leaders have been calling for more food aid, as well as for more funds and technology to boost agricultural production. Cereal exporting countries, meanwhile, are closing their borders to protect their domestic markets, while other countries have been forced into panic buying. Is this a price blip? No. A food shortage? Not that either. We are in a structural meltdown, the direct result of three decades of neoliberal globalisation.

Farmers across the world produced a record 2.3 billion tons of grain in 2007, up 4% on the previous year. Since 1961 the world’s cereal output has tripled, while the population has doubled. Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s true,[4] but the bottom line is that there is enough food produced in the world to feed the population. The problem is that it doesn’t get to all of those who need it. Less than half of the world’s grain production is directly eaten by people. Most goes into animal feed and, increasingly, biofuels – massive inflexible industrial chains. In fact, once you look behind the cold curtain of statistics, you realise that something is fundamentally wrong with our food system. We have allowed food to be transformed from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining. The perverse logic of this system has come to a head. Today it is staring us in the face that this system puts the profits of investors before the food needs of people.

Read moreMaking a killing from hunger

IMF alert on starvation and civil unrest


“Children will be suffering from malnutrition” … a UN peacekeeper with locals in Port-au-Prince,
where hunger-provoked protests and looting have left six dead. Photo: AP

THE poorest countries face starvation and civil unrest if global food prices keep rising, says the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Hundreds of thousands of people would starve, he said in Washington. “Children will be suffering from malnutrition, with consequences for all their lives.”

He predicted that rising food prices would push up the cost of imports for poor countries, leading to trade imbalances that might also affect developed nations.

“It is not only a humanitarian question,” he said.

Global food prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by rising demand, poor weather and an increase in the area of land used to grow crops for biofuels.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says 37 countries face food crisis. The president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, urged members on Sunday to provide $US500 million ($540 million) by May 1 to help alleviate the problem.

Read moreIMF alert on starvation and civil unrest

No food price relief seen for poor Afghans

KABUL, April 14 (Reuters) – Impoverished Afghans struggling with rising wheat prices are not expected to get any relief soon with no sign prices are going to come down, a United Nations official said on Monday.

Top finance and development officials from around the world called in Washington on Sunday for urgent action to stem rising food prices, warning that social unrest will spread unless the cost of basic staples is contained.

Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries with half its 25 million people living below the poverty line.

Wheat prices in Afghanistan have risen by an average of 60 percent over the last year with certain areas seeing a rise of up to 80 percent, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said.

Read moreNo food price relief seen for poor Afghans

WAR on FOOD – Grain Prices Soar Globally Leading To Food Riots

Rice shortages are appearing across Asia. In Egypt, the Army is now baking bread to curb food riots.

rice-market.jpg

Rice farmers here are staying awake in shifts at night to guard their fields from thieves. In Peru, shortages of wheat flour are prompting the military to make bread with potato flour, a native crop. In Egypt, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso food riots have broken out in the past week.

Read moreWAR on FOOD – Grain Prices Soar Globally Leading To Food Riots