Hunger Is Man-Made

Jun 5 — This week Oxfam launched Grow, its most ambitious campaign.

We published research which warned that the average price of key foods such as maize, wheat and rice will more than double in the next 20 years, forcing millions into chronic hunger. There are already more than 900 million people who do not have enough to eat.

This is a man-made disaster: the result of an international food system which creates huge profits for a few while leaving millions hungry. Three US companies – Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill – control nearly 90% of the world’s grain trade. In the first quarter of 2008, at the height of a global food price crisis, Cargill’s profits were up 86%, and the company is now heading for its most profitable year yet.

Oxfam wants Prime Minister David Cameron and other G20 leaders to agree new rules to govern food markets. Companies need to be more transparent so that the full impact on food prices is fully understood. The tendency of governments to panic-buy and hoard, as happened in 2008, is in a large part a consequence of poor market information. The collection and dissemination of aggregated data on stocks, reserves and anticipated supply and demand will help markets function better and stop food prices from spiralling out of control.

A precautionary approach to speculation in food commodities is also needed. Governments can curb excessive speculation while still enabling the legitimate risk-mitigation and price-discovery role of futures markets. Options include price limits, initially set at modest levels and gradually tightened, allowing regulators to monitor for any adverse consequences for companies.

Finally, support measures for biofuels must be dismantled. The amount of grain required to fill the petrol tank of a 4×4 is enough to feed a person for a year. Ten per cent of fuel will be biofuels by 2020, and this will contribute heavily to further instability in markets, threatening the food security of almost one billion people.

Judith Robertson is the head of

Oxfam Scotland

Published on 5 Jun 2011
By Judith Robertson

Source: Herald Scotland

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