Mike Moore on food

Mike Moore writes in the Herald on the food crisis:

What has been the most successful 50 years of alleviating poverty in human history is threatened. What’s happening, what’s new?

Nothing is more important than food. In 12 months, corn and rice prices have doubled, wheat price tripled, soy beans up by 87 per cent, and global food reserves are at their lowest levels ever.

They are staggering increases for just one year.

The rush to biofuels is also impacting cruelly in agriculture, where massive subsidies and high oil prices are encouraging agricultural production away from basic foods. Tragically, rich countries are subsidising bio-fuel production, raising prices. Filling a Range Rover with subsidised ethanol takes as much “grain” as would feed an African family for a year. Rich countries’ fuel substitution programmes often consume more energy to produce than they save. It’s a populist Green response to global warming that does the opposite of what was intended.

People should reflect that Federated Farmers have warned that if the price of carbon reaches $50 then the Emissions Trading Scheme would stop basically all food production in NZ – profits are projected to drop 123%. Now before everyone accuses them of scaremongering – what would have been your reaction if say ten years ago someone predicted biofuels would help push 100 million people into poverty and contribute to a doubling of world food prices?

But how can you encourage poor countries to grow food when subsidies from rich countries can drop similar products into their local market, sometimes at a third of local prices?

The medium- and long-term solution is the Doha Development Trade round, which is now at a critical stage. Unless the players at the WTO can get closer in the next few weeks, the deal will not be cut this year.

I could not agree more. Countries at the WTO who do not stop subsidising their food, are a big part of the problem.

If the rich countries cannot find the political courage to front their subsidised farmers when food prices are so high and will remain high, when can they summon up the willpower to save themselves? Subsidies in rich countries are a direct cash transfer from the poorest consumers to the richest of producers.

Indeed. Yet strangely it is so called left wing politicians like Obama and (H) Clinton who rail against free trade,

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