Monday, April 07, 2008

Food - A few quotes

A new face of hunger is emerging: even where food is available on the shelves, there are now more and more people who simply cannot afford it,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

“Resource scarcity is a long-term problem, and is likely to get worse with climate change - which will see reduced productivity, especially in countries where resources such as land, food, income, are ‘captured’ by an elite, and/or where inequalities are particularly bad,” according to social historian Diana Cammack, with the UK Overseas Development Institute.
The riots are about access to food, she points out, “where the poor have a reduced chance compared to the rich of getting to the food that is in the country … famines are often linked not simply to scarcity but to the cost of food and thus access to it”.

"Governments don't generally worry overmuch for the fate of poor people most affected by dearth - until the protests mount," said John Walton, who teaches sociology at the University of California, and is co-author of Free Trade and Food Riots.

Marc Cohen, research fellow at the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “Governments have tended to provide them [urban residents] with subsidies to prevent them from becoming discontent.” Subsidies are not a sustainable solution, according to Cohen. “A case in point is the urban population in Egypt, which has enjoyed subsidies for many decades. Should subsidies be removed, things can get very violent - but subsidies are increasingly unaffordable.”
Matein Khalid, an analyst, wrote in the Dubai-based newspaper, Khaleej Times, that bread has been subsidised by the rulers of Egypt since Pharaonic times. “… food price surges are more of a threat to regime stability than Dr Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda terrorists. Bread queues turn violent, a recurrent theme in Egyptian history …”

Now we read of clashes breaking out between police and protesters in the Nile Delta textile town of Mahalla el-Kubra for the second straight day on Monday and the protesters set fire to several shops .Clashes started on Sunday when the day shift ended at a giant textile mill where the workers had planned to go on strike for higher wages and protest against high prices.

In Haiti deaths of four people in two days of rioting last week over rising food prices.

In addition to Haiti and Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Indonesia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal have also experienced unrest in recent weeks related to soaring food and fuel prices.

Some 20 countries -- including Russia, Kazakhstan, and China -- have introduced price controls on staple items such as bread, milk, and cooking oil, while many countries have introduced export curbs.

"There has never been an acute shortage of food in India, not even during the infamous famine in Bengal in 1943 in which more than 1.5 million people are estimated to have died of starvation. The problem then - and now - is entitlement or access to food at affordable prices. " explains Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Indian economy analyst

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