Showing posts with label famine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label famine. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why hunger and famine?

" As a member of Oxfam's humanitarian support team, I can be deployed globally at short notice. My job is to provide short-term leadership or support in emergencies or humanitarian situations. From last October, I have been based in West Africa as the senior humanitarian adviser for the Sahel region - Mauritania, Mali and Niger...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..." - Scottish Oxfam worker David Crawford

Famines are not inevitable and they do not happen in isolation from the rest of the world. A drought is a natural event. Mass starvation is not. They are the consequence of human decision-making. Public indifference will only be dispelled when the media begin to explain, carefully and accurately, how and why famine occurs.

There was no shortage of food in the world. Thats a verifiable fact. The causes of hunger and  famine have little to do with a shortage of food. The real problem is elsewhere. Capitalists are not interested in production to benefit the peoples of the world. They are interested only in profits. Despite the hunger and famine in dozens of countries it is not profitable to feed starving peoples if they cannot pay for food.  Thus we recognize that despite every humanitarian declaration of rights it is legal for any individual to be deprived of food and left to die of hunger. If the economists were honest that would even say that this is the general condition of society and capitalists are obliged to starve people. Without exaggeration, it can be seen that the whole of our current society supports the legality of famine. It is a crime to be without money and it is  punishable by the death penalty. The struggle to rid the world of famine starts not with the begging bowl and pleas for pity, but by breaking the criminal conspiracy of  capitalism.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Profits or People

During the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1848, the worst year is known as Black '47, when 400,000 people died of starvation and disease. During that time, vast quantities of food continued to leave the country's shores. 4,000 ships carrying grain and livestock sailed from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow in 1847, according to Dr Christine Kinealy, a fellow at the University of Liverpool.

"I know all the difficulties that arise when you begin to interfere with trade," wrote the Irish Lord Lieutenant at the time, Lord Bessborough, who pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the government in London. "But it is difficult to persuade a starving population that one class should be permitted to make 50pc profit by the sale of provisions whilst they are dying for want of these."

In the world today, just as in Black '47, when wagon-loads of food were exported under guard by the army, there is enough capacity to feed everyone that is in need yet 2.3 million children die from malnutrition every year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Food Shortages - "it's capitalism" - says a capitalist

We have reported on the rise in food prices that many commentators blame on changes in supply and demand for grain but the Times reports that the managing director of Greggs, the well known high street baker-shop chain , has attacked speculators for driving up the price of wheat and fuelling famine in Africa.

Michael Darrington said commodity traders were more to blame for spiralling food price inflation than poor harvests or farmland given over to biofuels.

“There are stocks of wheat and grain in the world, and crops are growing at the moment but funds are being set up as speculators see an opportunity to make some short-term money and someone has to pay for it. It's really sad for people in the developing world where food can account for 70 per cent of the family budget. Wheat is predominantly grown in America, Australia, Europe - the wealthier areas - and people in under-developed nations are hurting the most.” He added I suppose that's just capitalism but it's jolly disappointing. If society looked down on these funds then perhaps it would make a difference.”

Can't pay - Can't have - So starve .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Food for Thought

From the Independent , the newspaper thats rapidly acquiring the reputation for doom and gloom , another story of impending catastrophe . The era of cheap food is coming to an end .

In the UK food prices are now rising at 6 per cent a year, twice as quickly as the general cost of living . In India the overall food price index is 10 per cent higher than last year. In China, prices are up 20 per cent for some staples. A similar inflationary trend can be seen in America.

Earlier this month, wheat prices reached their highest level in 10 years. Maize prices have doubled over the past year. Rice prices are rising too. Rice prices are climbing worldwide. Butter prices in Europe have spiked by 40 per cent in the past year. Global soybean prices have risen by a half. The food price index in India was up by 11 per cent year on year. In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60 per cent rise in the cost of tortillas. The price of cereals in this country has jumped by 12 per cent in the past year. And the cost of milk on the global market has leapt by nearly 60 per cent.

This is being passed on to the price of other foodstuffs such as meat and eggs, as much of these commodities are used for animal feed. Pork prices in China are up 20 per cent on last year . Butter prices in Europe have risen by 40 per cent in the past year.Rising global prices will hit poor countries hardest.

One reason for the price surge is the wholesale diversion of grain crops into the production of ethanol. Thirty per cent of next year's grain harvest in the US will go straight to an ethanol distillery. As the US supplies more than two-thirds of the world's grain imports (The US ships more grain than Canada, Australia and Argentina combined. ) this unprecedented move will affect food prices everywhere. In Europe farmers are switching en masse to fuel crops to meet the EU requirement that bio-fuels account for 20 per cent of the energy mix. Jean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, accused the US and EU of "total hypocrisy" for promoting ethanol production in order to reduce their dependence on imported oil. He said producing ethanol instead of food would condemn hundreds of thousands of people to death from hunger.
"Recently there's been a huge increase in the demand for industrial corn for the production of ethanol which inevitably pushes up the price of food stuffs," says Dawn McLaren, a research economist at the W P Carey School of Business in Phoenix, Arizona. "But if we get a particularly bad harvest or if a weather system like El NiƱo strikes we could be really stuck." Mrs McLaren says that as the West looks to replace its oil, poor people will pay the price. "It doesn't strike me as a very good idea to start using yet another vital and limited resource to wean ourselves off oil,"

Other reasons for rising food prices have been several bad harvests and adverse weather. Or it could be the spike in farmers' fuel prices as a result of instability in the Middle East. Perhaps likely is a substantial global demand shift is beginning to affect prices. There is a higher demand for cereals from China and India. India has become a net importer of wheat for the first time since 1975. China is expected to become a net importer of maize by 2008.

The solutions being offered ? Greater trade liberalisation to bring prices down .
New technology - to bioengineer crops specifically to be used for fuel to minimise the effect on the food market.

But the simpler solution , to create a society where peoples needs take priority over the capitalist market is once again over-looked .
The re-organisation of resources without the requirement to provide the capitalist class with profits would address and remove many of the worlds problems of food shortages .
The answer lies in Socialism .

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Food Aid Fails

From Time magazine , how the feel good factor in charity does very little to ameliorate famine .

Food aid feels good. Last year United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) coordinated emergency food aid for 73 million people worldwide, with the U.S. contributing 60% of that total.

"There's no question that food aid saves millions of lives,"


"...we're concerned that it's being asked to do too much, too inefficiently, and that by over-relying on food aid we ignore other solutions that could be more effective."

A January report by the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) put the question bluntly: Can food aid do more harm than good?

One-third of food-aid budgets never reaches the intended recipients and is instead swallowed up by costs in donor countries, according to the OECD. Only 15% of donated food is sourced locally . When food finally arrives — often too late to feed those most vulnerable — the influx of foreign products wreak havoc on the local market, depressing prices just when farmers need income to feed themselves.
Almost all U.S. food aid, by law, must be grown and processed at home. U.S. agribusiness, which receives subsidies for growing such crops, and the U.S. shipping industry profit from the arrangement. In April, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a scathing report on how America underachieves in its attempts to feed the world, noting that the amount of U.S. food aid actually reaching beneficiaries has declined by 43% over the last five years because of escalating transport and administrative costs.

Even though plentiful grains may be harvested just over the mountain from famine-stricken areas the first instinct of most governments is still to send bags of grain rather than pursuing longer-term solutions like building roads linking local farming communities with drought-suffering regions. Ethiopia, for example, is one of the largest corn growers in Africa, but poor transportation networks prevent most farmers from selling their crops outside their villages.

"It's all well and good for the American public to feel good about their corn feeding starving people," says Edward Clay, senior research associate with the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. "But do American taxpayers realize that their money is being used to fund a hugely inefficient enterprise?"