Banglapraxis quotes Bretten Woods Project on the current food crisis and the skewed diagnosis by Development institutions:
The IFIs trace 15 per cent of the increase to higher energy and fertilizer costs linked to skyrocketing oil prices, and another 15 – 30 per cent to the impact of biofuels. They have been silent on the role of speculative financial capital, which Peter Rosset, researcher at the Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano, calls “one of the most important” short-term causes. Other short-term factors include record-low food stocks and severe weather events such as last year’s Australian drought…
There is also enormous skepticism about the benefits of the current agribusiness model. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a three-year high-level exercise, came under “enormous pressure” according to one high-level insider to conform with the findings of the Bank’s World Development Report on agriculture (see Update 58). In contrast to the WDR, the IAASTD emphasises food security, environmental sustainability, and traditional knowledge. It criticises trade liberalisation for undermining the agricultural sector and stresses the need to “preserve national policy flexibility”.
Food Is Different
Globalization has made more food available worldwide to more people at lower prices. But the current crisis demonstrates the limits of globalization and that the market for food may not be the same as for other products.
by Bruce Stokes
Globalization’s Pluses and Minuses
The world has become more dependent on imported grain in the past 40 years, but failing global grain stocks make it harder to ease shortages and high prices.
Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank, warns that the unfolding food crisis could force 100 million people deeper into destitution and set back efforts to reduce world poverty by seven years.
In the midst of this crisis, the immediate humanitarian challenge is to feed the hungry. But the suddenness and breadth of the emergency has raised fundamental questions about the future of agricultural policy that will drive debates in Washington and other world capitals for years to come. The questions being posed about agricultural policies are complex and hard to answer.
Was it a mistake over the past generation to increasingly trust market forces to feed the world? Or are the problems that bedevil farmers today the residue of continued government interference in agricultural markets? Are current food prices a problem or the ultimate solution to future food needs? Does the world food system suffer from too much globalization or not enough?
In the search for answers to these questions, Washington is a Tower of Babel. Partisans of all stripes have seized on the crisis to justify their long-standing ideological positions on agriculture. Free-market proponents support a swift completion of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which would cut American and European farm subsidies and allow developing countries to increase their food exports to rich countries. “The solution is to break the Doha Development Agenda impasse in 2008,” Zoellick said in April. Continue reading
By Stefan Steinberg
A series of reports in the international media have drawn attention to the role of professional speculators and hedge funds in driving up the price of basic commodities—in particular, foodstuffs. The sharp increase in food prices in recent months has led to protests and riots in a number of countries across the globe.
On Tuesday, April 22, a UN spokesperson referred to a “silent tsunami” that threatens to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), noted: “This is the new face of hunger—the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are.”
A recent article in the British New Statesman magazine, entitled “The Trading Frenzy That Sent Prices Soaring,” notes that increases in global population and the switch to bio-fuels are important factors in the rise of food prices, but then declares: Continue reading