Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As food prices spike again, aid agency warns cost of staples will double in 20 years

With governments around the world doing nothing about rising unemployment, calling for increased austerity, privatizing government assets and allowing the IMF to dictate ag policy this situation is likely to get worse at a far greater rate than anticipated by Oxfam. We froze 5 more pints of broccoli yesterday and enjoyed strawberries for lunch. The okra is just pushing through and the potatoes are three feet high and blooming.

The report by Oxfam released Tuesday said the demand for food will grow 70 to 90 percent by 2030, without factoring in the impact of climate change. Increasingly frequent droughts, floods and changes in agricultural patterns from global warming will add pressure to what the agency calls an already broken system.

Oxfam’s report assigned part of the blame to commodities traders, saying three companies control 90 percent of the trade in grain. It urged greater regulation of speculation in the international food market.

But the system that controls global food production and requires reform is far broader, it said. It includes large-scale landowners in poor countries, farm lobbies and seed manufacturers in wealthy countries and high-carbon industries blocking action on climate change.

“For too long governments have put the interests of big business and powerful elites above the interests of the 7 billion of us who produce and consume food,” Oxfam’s executive director Jeremy Hobbs said in a statement.

The report called for building a multilateral system of food reserves, ending biofuel subsidies so more crops go toward edibles, and more investment in the 500 million small farms in developing countries that support 2 billion people.

The long-term problem is that the growing number of people on Earth and their increasing demand for an animal-based, Western-style diet is outstripping the growth in agriculture. Oxfam said global crop yields grew an average 2 percent between 1970 and 1990, but then dropped to 1 percent and are still declining.

“The dramatic achievements of the last century are running out of steam,” it said.

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