Friday, October 09, 2015

Global Food Security - Rubbing Salt in the Wounds of the Already Insecure

The Brits have a term for it, "chasing the sun." This describes how Britain's industrial agri-giants ensure that consumers will always find high-value products such as fresh strawberries on the shelves at Sainsbury's. They do it by establishing a global chain of production facilities. As the growing season in the UK closes, strawberry production shifts to Spain. After that it moves to Africa and so on. This ensures that somewhere around the world strawberries are being grown for shipment to British markets.

This is fine in theory but monstrous in practice. A lot of the production occurs in poorer nations that are already food insecure. Industrial producers come in and simply muscle out the locals, often land-grabbing the best farmland to meet the market demands thousands of miles distant. It's a piece of cake displacing the locals from the land their ancestors might have farmed for centuries thanks to corrupt government officials and the lack of any land title registration. Families don't get titles to their ancestral lands because there are no titles available. Foreign companies, however, get title deeds quick enough.

One of these countries I studied last year was Kenya. It could be a poster child for land grabbing. Which is why I was dismayed to read an article today that almost half the food grown in Kenya for Europe is wasted.

"Last December I traveled to Kenya to meet farmers and exporters supplying fresh produce to European retailers. I visited farms and pack houses around the country that were routinely throwing away vast amounts of perfectly good food and were losing money as a result. An average of 44.5 percent of the food grown for Europe was being discarded, not because of spoilage, but because it did not meet the cosmetic specifications of the major European retailers.

"Every exporter and producer I met had experienced rejecting their produce because it did not meet the grade. In addition, the drive for producing perfect food meant that farmers always over produced, using unnecessary quanities of resources like land and water to grow food that would never be eaten."

"Last minute order cancellations, whether explicit or based upon false quality claims, unfairly transfer financial risk from the market towards those at the bottom of the food chain, resulting in colossal amounts of food and resources being wasted. With diminishing selling power, fresh produce suppliers are unable to sell their highly perishable produce, meaning it is fed to livestock or dumped."

But, of course, the consumer almost never sees the dark side that lurks behind that lovely fresh produce in the grocery stores.  Big Agra goes to great lengths to ensure we never will.


Anonymous said...

Anyong: Where may I find the article Mound? Thanks

The Mound of Sound said...

You should be able to get it by clicking the link "half the food grown in Kenya" at the top.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Kenyan folks can figure out how to locally distribute, or even better, process those perishable foods...

The Mound of Sound said...

The problem is, A..non, that there's no law, no mechanism to get that food into the hands of the Kenyan people, especially those forcibly displaced from the very lands on which foreign companies now grow it.

It's a dark and largely overlooked problem that we've shown no interest in correcting. When foreign companies snap up the best farmland in a place like Ethiopia where we regularly have to send famine relief we're doing something diabolical.