Food price rises around the world are the result of a ‘broken’ system, according to experts | Environment | Catch My Job


Food price rises around the world are the result of a “broken” food system that fails the poor and concentrates power and profit in the hands of a few, food experts have said.

Rising food prices are causing widespread suffering in developing countries, and even in the rich world the combination of high food and fuel prices threatens hardship for millions.

Food prices have increased by around 20% this year and around 345 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity, compared to 135 million before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oxfam’s Alex Maitland told the Guardian that the current crisis was “the latest in a long line of failures in the global food system”, which has been made even more vulnerable recently by extreme weather and the effects of the climate crisis, economic upheaval and pandemic.

He said: “The war in Ukraine has caused massive price volatility and disrupted food supplies globally, but this is just the latest blow to an already broken global food system. Global food chains are dominated by a small number of multinational corporations. It’s no wonder these corporations can squeeze out such huge profits.”

The Guardian revealed this week that the ABCD companies (Archer-Daniels-Midland, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus) – which control 70-90% of the global grain trade – have been making a record bonanza as food prices rise in its wake. Ukraine war. It appears that some have also been increasing their profit margins, putting the squeeze on consumers even further.

Campaigners are concerned that seeds and agricultural chemicals are similarly controlled by a handful of companies, with just three multinationals – Bayer-Monsanto, Dupont-Dow and Chem-China Syngenta – controlling 60% of the trade. Among retailers there has also been consolidation, with just 10 grocery businesses accounting for half of all food sales in the EU.

Consumers are not the only victims: farmers, too, find it difficult to make a living when large companies abuse their dominance. Maitland said: “The people who produce and buy food are the victims of a system that puts shareholder profits over people. Half of those suffering from malnutrition are smallholder farmers and their families. The poorest spend much more of their income on food than the richest.”

Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain, a coalition of UK civil society groups, said: “Farmers have no control over setting prices and are all the poorer for it. It is estimated that 25% of farm households [in the UK] living below the poverty line.”

He added: “The current food crisis is not new, it has only accelerated due to the invasion of Ukraine, and unless governments recognize this and act to tackle the real causes – the profits corporate at the expense of farmers’ incomes, workers’ wages, consumers and the environment – we will be lurking from this crisis to the next.”

He called for government action to stop the worst abuses and restore balance in the food system. “Strong supply chain regulation and curbing financial speculation on food crops are key to ensuring everyone has enough food now and in the future.”

Tim Lang, emeritus professor of food policy at City, University of London, said both developed and developing countries were seeing the effects of years of increasing distortion in food markets. “We don’t pay enough attention to food – there is a lot of attention on the energy markets, but not so much on food,” he said.

The concentration of power in the hands of a few secretive companies led to a less transparent market, so it was difficult to judge whether beneficial or dangerous speculation was taking place or not. But this was just one aspect of a food system that was not working for the benefit of consumers or farmers, he said.

“We need to rethink the food system. People cannot afford a healthy diet, and this is a very serious problem. A lot of people make a lot of money out of food, but food producers get about 8% of the £250bn a year we spend on food,” he said.


Source link