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Hunger in Abundance

The price explosion has nothing to do with a shortage in grain. After the quasi-collapse of the US financial markets, international investors have floated a considerable part of their funds in raw material- and food branches.
HUNGER IN ABUNDANCE

By Klaus Fischer

[This article published in: Junge Welt 4/12/2008 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.jungewelt.de/2008/04-12/040.php?print=1.]


The UN organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) fears higher food prices. This development threatens millions of the poorest people worldwide, the UN organization warned in its quarterly report at the beginning of April 2008 in Rome. In many developing countries, the prices for bread, rice, milk and other foods have risen drastically in the last months, the report says.

The price explosion has nothing to do with a shortage in grain. In 2007, the worldwide grain production grew almost five percent. In 2008, the FAO expects a further increase and calculates a record harvest of 2.16 billion tons. This could improve the strained situation somewhat, the experts of the UN organization hope. In the meantime, the situation in many countries seems ominous.

In the poor Caribbean state of Haiti, several persons were killed in hunger protests in the last weeks. The starving rebel in Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Indonesia, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal. In Asian states like India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines, governments try to ward off even worse developments. FAO general director Jacques Diouf fears more trouble-spots will soon be added.

In the meantime, this theme has also reached the heads of government of rich western industrial states. Climate change, production of bio-fuel, altered food habits in threshold countries and soaring oil prices are now forcing up food prices, the German minister of development assistance Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul warned. Before leaving for the spring meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, the SPD politician urged affordable food for everyone.

Great Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to set the theme bio-fuels on the agenda at the G8 summit in July at Hokkaido. The heads of state of the seven most important western economic nations and Russia should spe3ak about the effects of the bio-fuel boom on worldwide food prices. The London Guardian quoted from Brown's letter to his Japanese colleague Yasuo Fukuda: "There is increasing consensus that we must analyze the different ways manufacturing bio-fuels affects food prices," Brown wrote.

In the opinion of many experts, bio-fuel cultivation and higher energy costs are not alone responsible for the soaring price of food. After the quasi-collapse of the US financial markets, international investors have floated a considerable part of their funds in raw material- and food branches. The speculation may have contributed to the substantial rise in prices. According to the data of the Neuer Zuricher Zeitung (NZZ), the prices for wheat and soy doubled between the spring of 2007 and the middle of February. Corn has climbed 66 percent since last fall and rice has become 75 percent more expensive in the past ten months. The Food-Price index rose 57 percent within only one year (March to March). Food has become too expensive for considerable parts of the world population. Their purchasing power is not enough to adequately feed themselves, NZZ reports.

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