Thursday, May 20, 2010

Global Famine Closing In

A billion people worldwide are malnourished even as Goldman Sachs and others of that ilk disastrously game the commodities markets. For some people, one family's famine is their path to even greater riches. This is what we have become. This is what we tolerate in the name of free enterprise and global free trade.

As they gamed the derivatives market, dealing a body blow to First World economies, so these Titans of Wall Street are gaming the food market, driving the price of food staples beyond the reach of the poorest and most vulnerable. And we sit by and let them do it. From CBC News:

Over an 18-month period, unprecedented panic and hoarding in the world's primary food markets, coupled with crop failures and price speculation, caused the three key global staples — wheat, maize and rice — to actually triple in cost.

In that process, many of the world's poor lost virtually all their meagre savings simply trying to survive this inflation.

To make matters worse, this calamity was immediately followed by the still continuing global economic crisis, which compounded the problem in the developing world by tossing hundreds of millions out of work.

The result, according to UN studies, is that there has never been more desperately poor people in the world than today.

In a remarkably short time this truly vicious cycle has effectively knocked whole nations out of full participation in the world economy, which in turn further undermines global confidence.
Developing nations have seen their budgets and their balance of payments ravaged as they struggle simply to import enough food for increasingly desperate and angry populations.

Yes, most food prices moderated this spring because of better harvests in Asia. But the past spikes, along with other factors, have left prices still too high for many small-plot farmers and the urban poor.

In India, for example, food inflation remained above 20 per cent last year and has been running at above 16 per cent since.

According to the World Food Program, about 80 per cent of those in Asia, South America and Africa can afford only one-third as much food as they could two or three years ago.

The CBC's Brian Stewart points out that the Harper government, in conjunction with the Obama administration, Spain and South Korea, is spearheading a food security programme to encourage agricultural reforms in the hardest hit nations. Unfortunately what our generosity cannot buy for them is a reliable, abundant supply of freshwater. We can assist them with better seeds, fertilizers and new technology but that won't overcome the freshwater crisis setting in from Asia to Africa.

I commend Harper, Obama and the others for their gesture but it's a very limited gesture. You cannot and will not bolster world food security without accompanying programmes to adapt to the impacts of climate change already afflicting many of the most vulnerable regions and some working solutions to their growing freshwater calamities.

1 comment:

Oemissions said...

We eat gas and oil.