Notes on a web journey

posted on: 19 April 2008

New hunger, old issues

filed under: @ 09:19:02 by 7colors

Last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%. These were some of the sharpest rises in food prices ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated. Since January, rice prices have soared 141%; the price of one variety of wheat shot up 25% in a day... The prices mainly reflect changes in demand - not problems of supply, such as harvest failure. The changes include the gentle upward pressure from people in China and India eating more grain and meat as they grow rich and the sudden, voracious appetites of western biofuels programmes, which convert cereals into fuel. This year the share of the maize (corn) crop going into ethanol in America has risen and the European Union is implementing its own biofuels targets. To make matters worse, more febrile behaviour seems to be influencing markets: export quotas by large grain producers, rumours of panic-buying by grain importers, money from hedge funds looking for new markets.

I'm not an economist so my vision of the problem may be simplistic but it seems to me as if all these programs that should help the poorest are just attempts to patch up the effects of economic imbalance between “developed” countries and the rest of the world. These programs don't address the causes and don't try to really change the situation but just to keep it going and as invisible as possible. Food prices raise in response to speculations, rumors...people die of starvation because someone in an air-conditioned office says “maybe we will buy more wheat next year”..and the solution to something so absurd is to tell the farmer that they have to produce more wheat using more fertilizers...these are not solutions, these are the usual suspects making tons of money on rumors like it happens with the oil (forecast a cold winter or a hot summer and oil prices raise). Rumors, forecasts, projections, predictions, previsions...why we let them do this all the time?



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