Global free market for food and energy faces biggest threat in decades

The global free market for food and energy is facing its biggest threat in decades as a host of countries push through draconian measures to hold down prices, raising fears of a new “resource nationalism” that could endanger world food security.


Somali’s demonstrate against high food prices in the capital Mogadishu. At least two people were killed in clashes

India shocked the markets yesterday by suspending trading in futures contracts for a range of farm products in a bid to clamp down on alleged speculators and curb inflation, now running at 7.6pc.

The country’s Forward Markets Commission said contracts for soybean oil, chana (chickpeas), potatoes, and rubber had been banned for four months, even though a report by the Indian parliament last month concluded that soaring food costs had almost nothing to do with the futures contracts. Traders in Mumbai slammed the ban as an act of brazen political populism.

The move has been seen as a concession to India’s Communist MPs – key allies of premier Manmohan Singh – who want a full-fledged ban on futures trading in sugar, cooking oil, and grains.

As food and fuel riots spread across the world, a string of governments have resorted to steps that menace the free flow of food and key commodities. Argentina has banned beef exports, while Egypt and India have stopped shipments of rice.

Kazakhstan has prohibited wheat exports. Russia has slapped a 40pc export duty on shipments, and Pakistan a 35pc duty.

China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philipines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam have all imposed export controls or forms of rationing to ease the crisis.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that this lurch towards national controls is becoming a threat to the open global system we all take for granted. “If not handled properly, this crisis could result in a cascade of others and affect political security around the world,” he said.

A new report by UBS says the scramble for scarce raw materials is turning ever more political, with ominous implications for ill-endowed societies that rely on imports.

“The bottom line is that countries with resources, particularly in food and energy are becoming more protective of these resources,” it said.

(I know I am repeating myself and I know that many are already well prepared. This is for the ones that are not:
Store food and water “NOW”. Do this in a relaxed manner because your brain shuts down when you are under stress and in survival mode. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read more

Myanmar – Official: Storm toll could be 100,000


Officials say corpses are floating in the water as Myanmar disaster grows
YANGON, Myanmar – Bodies floated in flood waters and survivors tried to reach dry ground on boats using blankets as sails, while the top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar said Wednesday that up to 100,000 people may have died in the devastating cyclone.

Hungry crowds stormed the few shops that opened in the country’s stricken Irrawaddy delta, sparking fist fights, according to Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in neighboring Thailand.

Shari Villarosa, who heads the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, said food and water are running short in the delta area and called the situation there “increasingly horrendous.”

“There is a very real risk of disease outbreaks as long as this continues,” Villarosa told reporters. Some 1 million people were homeless in the Southeast Asian country, the U.N. said.

Read more

UN secretary-general calls food price rise a global crisis

VIENNA, Austria – A sharp rise in food prices has developed into a global crisis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

Ban said the U.N and all members of the international community were very concerned and immediate action was needed.

He spoke to reporters at U.N. offices in Austria, where he was meeting with the nation’s top leaders for talks on how the United Nations and European Union can forge closer ties.

“This steeply rising price of food — it has developed into a real global crisis,” Ban said, adding that the World Food Program has made an urgent appeal for additional $755 million.

“The United Nations is very much concerned, as (are) all other members of the international community,” Ban said. “We must take immediate action in a concerted way.”

Ban urged leaders of the international community to sit down together on an “urgent basis” to discuss how to improve economic distribution systems and promote the production of agricultural products.

An estimated 40 percent increase in food prices since last year has sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia.

On Thursday, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization chief Jacques Diouf said immediate efforts should focus on helping farmers in developing countries grow more crops.

Josette Sheeran, the World Food Program’s executive director, has likened the price increases to a “silent tsunami,” and said requests for food aid are coming in from countries unable to cope with the rising prices.

She noted that the price of rice has more than doubled since March. The World Bank estimates that food prices have increased by 83 percent in three years.

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press WriterFri Apr 25, 12:44 PM ET

Source: AP

Pope blesses U.N. flag, calls for binding international rules

Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, warning nations against undermining the authority of the United Nations by acting unilaterally. The Pope also found time to bless the U.N. flag.

Reuters reports,

“Countries that act unilaterally on the world stage undermine the authority of the United Nations and weaken the broad consensus needed to confront global problems, Pope Benedict said on Friday.

The international community must be “capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules,” said the 81-year-old pope, who spoke after meeting privately with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He said the notion of multilateral consensus was “in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.”

The Pope’s comments are of little surprise, given the fact that he has previously called for a “new world order” to combat terrorism, environmental problems, as well as economic imbalances during his Christmas 2005 speech. Pope John Paul II also called for a new world order in a 2004 new years speech.

Read more

Haitian President Fails to Restore Order

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A desperate appeal from the president Wednesday failed to restore order to Haiti’s shattered capital, and bands of looters sacked stores, warehouses and government offices.

Gunfire rang out from the wealthy suburbs in the hills to the starving slums below as 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers were unable to halt a frenzy of looting and violence that has grown out of protests over rising food prices.


Police officers disperse demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, April 09, 2008.
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Many of the protesters are demanding the resignation of the U.S.-backed president, Rene Preval, and on Tuesday U.N. peacekeepers had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away a mob that tried to storm his palace.

He delivered his first public comments Wednesday, nearly a week into the protests. With his job on the line, Preval urged Congress to cut taxes on imported food and appealed to the rioters to go home.

“The solution is not to go around destroying stores,” he said. “I’m giving you orders to stop.”

But gunfire rang out around the palace after the speech, as peacekeepers tried to drive away people looting surrounding stores.

The streets remained in the control of bands of young men carrying sticks and rocks, who set up roadblocks of burning tires and stopped passing cars. Businesses were closed and most people locked themselves indoors, as mobs looted stores, warehouses and government offices.

Read more

World warned on high food costs – BBC NEWS

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is deeply concerned about the sharp rise in global food prices.

Mr Ban said the trend would hinder progress towards the millennium development goals (MDGs), which aim to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) and other agencies may be forced to ration food aid, he said in a BBC interview.

He said shortages might be eased by a “green revolution” to transform farming methods in Africa.

Global food prices have risen by 40% in nine months and food reserves are at their lowest for 30 years.

The WFP is facing a $500m (£248m) shortfall in its attempts to feed 73 million people this year.

Read more

U.N. chief condemns Israel after Gaza clash

gaza-ukreuterscom.jpeg

GAZA (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel for using “excessive” force in the Gaza Strip and demanded a halt to its offensive after troops killed 61 people on the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 1980s.

Addressing an emergency session of the Security Council in New York after four days of fighting in which 96 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, Ban also called on Gaza’s Islamist militants to stop firing rockets.

The 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into the blockaded, 45 km (30-mile) sliver of coast, enjoyed a relative respite early on Sunday from Israeli air strikes and raids. Two Israeli soldiers died in a ground assault on Saturday. An Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket in a border town on Wednesday.

“While recognising Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children … I call on Israel to cease such attacks,” said Ban.

Read more