Ryeview – May 2008

Moneymen prosper while world’s poor starve

John Clark writes…

First published: May 2008 – Gazette & Herald

25,000 people are dying very day through starvation. Another 100 million are lining up behind them in a state of hunger. The problem is so obvious that Gordon Brown has said “food shortages represent a crisis on a par with the global turmoil in the financial markets”. What he is not saying is who is to blame for these price hikes, shortages and deaths. Who is guilty?

The death of hundreds of thousands of people is not just bad luck; it could be prevented. Logically those that are causing it are guilty. Those that could stop it are complicit in the crime.

Who are the suspects?

  • Cheap food policy.
  • Deliberate running down of British food production.
  • The power of the supermarkets.
  • Trading of food as a commodity.
  • Growing of biofuels on land that could grow food.
  • Supermarkets ‘buy one get one free’.
  • Politicians.
  • Technology Parks built on agricultural land.

Britain and much of the western world has had a cheap food policy. This was so that the ‘poor’ could afford food. The result is that food has been cheap for everyone and thus undervalued. Meanwhile the poor have stayed poor. Food is so undervalued that a third of Britain’s food is ‘lost’ between the plough and the plate (twenty thousand million pounds).

The power of the supermarkets is such that they have been able to ‘bully’ farmers. Some farmers have gone down the intensive, high chemical agribusiness route – it is cheaper to feed school children Turkey Twizzlers than decent food. Others have gone down the ‘low production’ diversification route. A Welsh farmer friend of mine used to have a dairy herd and grow tens of acres of potatoes. Now he keeps horses and farms tourists. He used to make a good living – now he survives. He says “the farm is on holiday” – his food production has plummeted.

According to the NFU the saviour of the farmers as well as the planet is ‘biofuels’. Some of us questioned the reduction in food production. To no avail. We are now all driving vehicles on food that should be feeding the hungry and starving.

Despite all of the above the biggest cause of the ‘food crisis’ is the market. A handful of companies, worldwide, trade in a small percentage of the world’s food. This sets an artificially low price. Meanwhile these traders, transnationals and hedge fund managers make individual fortunes in gambling on the future and present price of these commodities. These parasites on the world’s food are aided and abetted by the world’s heavies of the IMF and the World Bank.

Back to our beloved PM. He gathers together the ‘suspects’ in Downing Street; the supermarkets, the NFU etc… Who is committing the crime? Who is guilty? Unlike Poirot, no one is accused. No one is guilty. Those who are profiting from the crime are allowed to continue. Two of the ‘suspects’ (the IMF and the World Bank) are even encouraged to become more involved. Brown’s solution is to contribute a miserly £400million towards the World Food Programme and food production research. Compare this to the 250 times bigger sum (£100billion) to support the banks. Money is clearly more important than food.

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