Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Hungry Planet

The Independent on Sunday carried yet another doom and gloom article about the impending catastophe of failing harvests which will mean more people around the world facing hunger and famine in the future .
Food supply is shrinking according to the latest forecasts by the UN and the USA .
Yet , as the article says -

"...enough is produced worldwide to feed everyone well, if it is evenly distributed..."

Hunger and starvation exists because :

"...poor people become increasingly unable to afford expensive food ..."

Cows and pigs come before people . A third of all grain is used to fatten up animals for the more profitable meat market .

And with the recent introduction of the bio-fuel , ethanol , instead of feeding people , corn is now increasingly being fed to the motor car.

"...Just a single fill of ethanol for a four-wheel drive SUV, says Brown, uses enough grain to feed one person for an entire year...The number of ethanol plants built or planned in the corn-belt state of Iowa will use virtually all the state's crop...From next year, the amount used to run American cars will exceed exports..."
It is sad that even more of the the poor who spend 70% of income on food face the a situation that they will not be able to buy the food they require to live on .
All this reminds me of an article a few months ago by an Oxfam aid worker where he is quoted as saying :
"...The food crisis was widely perceived in the media to relate to food shortages which then caused widespread hunger and malnutrition...Although this played an important role at a local level, it wasn't the main cause as the following example illustrates.
During the crisis, Niger was still exporting food and staple cereals were available in the markets. The problem, however, was the poorest and most vulnerable people hadn't produced enough grain to survive and couldn't afford to buy it in the markets.
Once people run out of money they turn to "coping strategies", for instance getting into debt or selling off their assets including their valuable animals...For the poorest people who are vulnerable to food crisis, the main problem is access to food, not availability of food - food is usually available but they can't get it..."
The solution to world hunger is not all that complicated .
"...Making cars more fuel-efficient, and eating less meat would help but the only long-term solution is to enable poor countries - and especially their poorest people - to grow more food. And the best way to do that, studies show, is to encourage small farmers to grow crops in environmentally friendly ways. Research at Essex University shows that this can double yields..."
However , under Capitalism , it is the growth in the rate of profit and the the size of return in the buying and selling in the futures market of the stock exchange that matters far more important than the growth of crop yields down on the farm .

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