Showing posts with label food prices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food prices. Show all posts

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Food Stamp Nation

“I’ve got two children,” she says. “I’ve got to have food.”

So do 46 million other Americans. In fact, if the Americans using food stamps constituted a country, they would be the 27th largest nation in the world.

In the first minutes of each month, food stamp purchases at 24-hour Wal-Marts across the country surge as those relying upon food stamps drives through the dark to purchase sorely needed food.

“Our sales for those first few hours on the first day of the month are substantially and significantly higher,” Wal-Mart CEO William S. Simon told a Goldman Sachs conference 18 months ago. “If you really think about it, the only reason somebody goes out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it — and they’ve been waiting for it.” Studies show that food stamps typically last only 17.5 days

Launched under Kennedy , first as a pilot project and later permanently by Johnson as part of his “War on Poverty,” food stamps (technically known as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has been supported by the American agricultural sector keen to have more markets for its produce, as well as liberals and conservatives. These days, program is now under attack. The federal program currently costs taxpayers about $75 billion annually — a point of mounting criticism among conservatives who contend that their tax dollars are being parceled out to people who, they believe, are not contributing to America.

New York City (and the state of Arizona) insist on finger-imaging technology, the digital equivalent to fingerprinting, to verify food recipients. Some recipients feel that process treats them like criminals.New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contends that for “people who are receiving things, rather than dedicating their lives to make it better, this is hardly something that’s a great imposition or that anyone should feel stigmatized about.”

“If you ask a liberal, all of these people on food stamps are oppressed — people who got screwed by the elite,” says Syracuse University political scientist Jeffrey Stonecash. “If you ask a conservative, these are simply people who made choices, like deciding not to continue their education.” How Americans view food stamps now, “is entirely a function of one’s ideology,” he says. Seeking political advantage, Gingrich is making a direct appeal to that part of American society that is now angry, explains Stonecash, people who have lost their homes, their retirement accounts, who have worked hard and now think, “there’s this vast welfare state out there that is consuming huge amounts of money.”

At the beginning of last year Texas had the most citizens enrolled in the program with more than 3.5 million people; California was number two at 3.3 million and New York state ranked third with 2.8 million. To be eligible, an individual must not make more than $14,088 per year. A person with a family of four can’t have a household income exceeding $28,668. The average payout isn’t handsome: individuals get $133 per month while families average $290.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paying the Price

The number of people going bankrupt has seen its biggest quarterly rise in three years, up 25% on the previous quarter.

Official figures from insolvency supervisors Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) showed 5,319 personal insolvencies in Scotland in the first quarter of the current tax year. It is the biggest increase since 2008.

Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Lucy McTernan said many Scots struggling with heavy debts were choosing bankruptcy as the "lesser of two evils".
She said, "If you are struggling with debt which has become unmanageable, and you really can't see a way out of it, then bankruptcy can be your only realistic course of action."

Experts warned the increase is only the "start of a trend" in the months ahead as the full impact of spending cuts and a stagnant economy start to bite.

Bryan Jackson, corporate recovery partner with accountancy firm PKF, said: "This dramatic rise in the number of personal bankruptcies in Scotland is a sign that the impact of the recession is still being felt. This must be due to rising utility, food and fuel prices coupled with a freeze in pay which means that hard-pressed individuals are now succumbing to years of built-up indebtedness." He warned: "Given that we have yet to see the full implementation of public sector job cuts, these figures would tend to indicate the start of a trend rather than the end and I believe that the number of Scots being made bankrupt will increase for some time to come."

Iain Fraser, Scottish spokesman for insolvency professionals trade body R3, added; "It is highly likely that financial pressures will continue to produce high levels of personal insolvency among Scots for some considerable time."

Gordon MacRae, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said: "The increase in individual bankruptcies is worrying. As Scotland begins to feel the full impact of savage cuts to jobs and housing benefits, and as more people face even greater debt, the perfect storm is brewing for a rise in homelessness."

Cash-strapped consumers are increasingly turning to discount supermarkets to slash their spending on food, as soaring prices force them to change their shopping habits, according to a new report. The prolonged squeeze on their pockets is making millions of shoppers more savvy when they visit high street stores and is forcing them to change their habits at the tills. Essential foods such as bread, meat, milk, cheese and eggs increased markedly month on month, putting yet more pressure on already struggling households. 84 per cent of people across the UK are worried about the rising cost of food - with food prices continuing to climb. A third of those surveyed told Which? they had already reduced their spending on groceries this year. People have changed which foods they are buying to cope with higher food prices, switching to cheaper brands, bigger value packs and more supermarket own-brands. Shoppers are also putting less organic food in their baskets.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Malnutrition in the UK ?

“We think we are heading towards malnutrition happening here in the UK.” - Save the Children’s Colette Marshall told the BBC. "Benefits simply haven’t been enough and with rising food costs it means that families cannot afford to give children proper decent food. "

Children are being deprived of dietary staples and instead are being raised on cheap packaged food high in fat, salt and sugar. The Grocer magazine shows food prices rising by almost a fifth over the past year, with basic essentials such as rice and milk among the worst hit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The crazy logic of capitalist economics

The Sunday Times has found that home-grown products are being transported thousands of miles overseas for processing before being put on sale back in Britain. Socialist Courier reported this market madness back here .

Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain.

Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.

“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”

Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to the River Clyde in Scotland and breaded for sale in Britain.

The company said it was forced to make the move by commercial pressures. “This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don’t stack up any other way,” said Andrew Stapley, a director. “We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it’s cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive.”

Haddock is one of the fish most commonly caught by British trawlers, but Tesco sends its Atlantic haddock for processing to Poland where labour costs are lower. It is then driven more than 850 miles to Tesco’s depot in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Traidcraft coffee, sold at Sainsbury’s, is made from beans grown in Bukoba, Tanzania.

Once the coffee is cultivated, it is driven 656 miles to Dar-es-Salaam and then shipped 3,250 miles to Vijayawada in India where it is packed. The coffee is loaded back on the ships and transported another 5,000 miles to Southampton. It is then driven 330 miles to Gateshead and is finally driven to Leeds for distribution to Sainsbury’s stores.

Sainsbury’s organic fair trade rice, produced in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, is shipped to Lille, France, rather than Britain, to be packed. It then makes a second journey to end up on Sainsbury’s shelves.It is not just fair trade coffee that is sent from country to country. Instead of directly importing coffee beans from Costa Rica for their instant coffee, Sainsbury’s and Tesco first send them to Germany. The final product then undergoes another 500-mile lorry journey to get to Britain.Similarly, French-grown walnuts sold in Waitrose are sent to Naples to be packed. The retailer’s Brazil nuts from South America are also transported to Italy before being sent to Britain.

The industrialisation of the food chain means even small firms are being forced to ship their produce abroad for processing. Pilchard fillets, produced by the Pilchard Works in Cornwall, are sent on the overnight ferry to France because there is no suitable processing plant in England. The pilchards are canned in Douarnenez in Brittany, then returned to Cornwall. Similarly, Welsh cockles – produced by Van Smirren Seafoods – are driven across Britain to Dover and then transported to Yerseke in Holland. They are pickled and put in jars before being sent back to Britain.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MEP, said: “Ultimately, the price is paid by all of us in the shape of higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, and food that is both less tasty and less healthy.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing poverty

The number of people living in poverty in the world's 50 least developed countries is rising despite their economies growing at the fastest pace in 30 years, a UN report said

In its annual Least Developed Countries Report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said that overall growth rates of 7% in the countries between 2005 and 2006 should have provided an opportunity for "substantial improvements" in living conditions. But three-quarters of their people continue to survive on less than $2 (£1) a day and 277 million people live on less than $1 a day, compared with 265 million in 2000 and 245 million in 1995.

Low progress in reducing poverty means the countries will not be able to achieve the first of the UN millennium development goals, halving the proportion of those living on less than $1 a day between 1990 and 2015. To achieve this, they would need to cut their absolute poverty rate to 20% by 2015. Unctad said that if current trends continued, they would only achieve 33% of the target by that date.

Unctad believes the global food crisis will worsen the situation. Sharp rises in international food prices in 2007 and early 2008 have led to domestic food costs soaring. In some countries the prices of staples such as maize, wheat and rice have doubled in the past 18 months.Two-thirds of the countries import more food than they export.

Capitalism fails to deliver , just as socialists predicted .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Getting along wih less to go on

Average families have seen their disposable incomes drop by £8 a week in the past year, research suggests.

Although earnings rose by £23 a week, or 3.6%. that was outstripped by taxes, which rose 6.5%, and higher bills for essential items such as food and fuel. This week government figures showed that higher fuel and food bills had driven annual inflation to its highest level for 11 years.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King , also warned that real incomes would stagnate this coming year.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said the average family had an income of £633 a week, which was 3.6% higher than May 2007. However, it found taxes and national insurance had risen by 6.5% over that time. Adding in the effect of more expensive essential spending - such as transport fares, utility bills, food, clothes and housing - meant that these families now had, typically, just £131 left to spend on other things - a drop of 6%.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the shopping price hike

High food costs have added £15 to a weekly supermarket shop for a family of four in the UK, new research suggests.
Comparison website MySupermarket says a basket of 24 staple items including tea bags, milk and eggs costs 15% more than it did 12 months ago. The findings are based on its price comparisons of certain everyday items at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.
The increases mean that families spending an average of £100 a week on food will be spending £780 a year more at a time when customers are under increasing pressure from higher mortgage, petrol and energy costs.

Johnny Stern, managing director of MySupermarket said: "The conclusion is that supermarkets are passing on a sizeable amount of the increased costs."

The price of wheat, rice and maize have nearly doubled in the past year . Analysts have warned that the higher prices are threatening to drive an extra 100 million people worldwide into poverty.

White loaf at Sainsbury's and Tesco: 65p - up 20%
Butter: 94p - up 62%
English mild cheddar: £1.52 - up 26%
Garden peas at Tesco: £1.79 - up 63%
Basmati white rice: £1.45 - up 61%

Sunday, April 20, 2008

hunger: it’s a market thing

From Ian Bell of the Sunday Herald

Lots of food, lots of hunger: it’s a market thing.

Last week the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development was published...Its main findings were simple enough, however. There is enough food for everyone. It is cheaper and, broadly, more nutritious than it has been in decades, but 800 million go hungry...

...there are no food shortages. Instead, according to one of those complicated theories they teach at Oxford and the like, there are money shortages. Or rather - and this is apparently so complicated it never gets discussed - some people are very short of money and some are anything but...

...The relationships between land, food security, politics and bread at £1.13 a loaf are not abstract. The laws of economics should not be mistaken for acts of God...

As Bell writes , the law of economics is not abstract but neither is it complicated . Simply put , in capitalism , if you cannot pay , you cannot have , no matter your dire need . The Socialist Party understand this , as too does the working class , even if they so far have not understood or sought the solution - socialism - and it is not more abstract analysis from philosophers and politicians that is required , instead the point now is to change the way the world is organised for the benefit of the few against the interests of the many to a system where we all enjoy the fruits of our labour . That takes political action and a political movement to organise around and that requires members and commitment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Food Prices Rise

The Socialist Courier has already reported here about the rise in the world prices of food but today's Herald carried an article on the local effects .

Families are paying record prices for food after costs soared in the year to February, with a rate increase exceeded only by fuel costs.

Annual food product inflation has reached 8.4% - the highest since records began in 1986 - according to the Office for National Statistics . Meat prices were the main culprit of spiralling costs as fresh and preserved meat prices rose 5.5% from January to February.

Food manufacturers such as Hovis bread maker Premier Foods have been labouring under rising wheat costs. Imported cereal product prices are up more than 6% over the month and surging by almost 47% in the year to February.

Monday, January 28, 2008

1957 and 2006 - Are we better off ?

What difference does 50 years make for the working class . Are we all better off . Well , it certainly appears that way . UK household income has doubled in real terms over the last fifty years. And the pattern of family spending has also changed dramatically. Basic necessities including food accounting for a smaller proportion of our family budget, while spending is up on leisure activities, travel and motoring. Income going to housing makes up a greater share.

In 1957, spending on food, fuel and rent , the basic three items , made up nearly half of all household expenditure. Taken together with clothing and travel, basics made up nearly two-thirds of family spending. The main luxuries for the ordinary family were tobacco and alcohol, which combined made up just under 10% of spending. The biggest other luxury item was meals eaten out making up 3% of spending. Four of the top ten spending items were food or drink, with spending on meat, fruit, vegetables and beer all in the top twenty.
Overall, the average family spent a total of £14.30 per week in 1957, out of a gross income of £16. In today's money, spending was £243 per week.

In 2006 the average household spent £456 out of a gross income of £642 before taxes.

In five decades, spending on most basics has declined sharply, with food making up only half as much of the average household budget as it did in 1957. And half of that food budget now consists of meals and takeaways - a new category introduced in the l970s.

But the cost of housing, including mortgage interest payments or rent, has more than doubled since 1957. Mortgage interest payments or rent accounted for 19% of spending in 2006, up from 9% in 1957Using a slightly broader measure of housing costs, which includes council tax, insurance and home improvements, UK households spent an average of £143 a week on housing-related costs in 2006 - or 22%.

Motoring and travel costs have doubled from 8% of spending in 1957 to 16% in 2006, mostly because of rising car ownership .

There are big social divisions in the ownership of some popular consumer goods, and the greater affluence is at least partly a result of more families having two incomes - both parents going out to work .

And But there are big differences in consumption between rich and poor.
Nearly every household in the richest tenth of the population had a computer and an internet connection. In contrast, among the poorest tenth, only 31% have computers and 21% have an internet connection. And 56% of that group have mobile phones, compared to 92% of the richest tenth. The pattern of car ownership also varies sharply by income, with less than a third of the poorest tenth of households owning a car, compared to 94% of the richest tenth of families.

Nor are we happier it is claimed .

According to economist Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, once people can afford the basics, happiness does not increase with income when comparing happiness among rich and poor countries. And looking at surveys of happiness over time, he says levels of happiness have not changed across either the UK - or US - in the last 30 years, despite the doubling of living standards in both. Moreover, the availability of new goods can just make people more jealous of what they are unable to afford, especially for the less well-off.

Other studies show that what we have lost in the last 50 years is time. Strikingly, most families now talk more in the car than at home.

Paradoxically , while we spend more on leisure goods than half a century ago, we have less time to enjoy our free time - increasing numbers of households need two earners as earlier said and working hours have increased even if there has been an official reduction , since doing overtime has climbed .

Friday, December 07, 2007

Price fixing at your local supermarket

Always first with the news , Socialist Courier reported here the Capitalist Scam of supposed rivals and competitors co-operating to fix prices of goods to extract extra profits .

And lo and behold , what should appear on the BBC , but the revelation that Sainsbury's and Asda have admitted fixing the price of milk and cheese and who along with a number of dairy firms, have agreed to pay fines totalling at least £116 million following an inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading . Cases against Tesco and Morrisons will continue after no deal was struck.

The OFT said that its evidence found that while dairy product prices went up after the collusion, the price received by farmers did not increase. The price fixing saw customers being charged 3p extra for a pint of milk and 15p extra per quarter-pound of butter. Customers also being allegedly overcharged 15p per half-pound of cheese .

In September, the watchdog provisionally found evidence of collusion by 10 firms relating to price-setting in 2002 and 2003. Now Sainsbury's and Asda have admitted price-fixing of milk and cheese, as has Safeway - before it was bought by Morrisons. Safeway has also admitted colluding on the price of butter. Dairy product processors Dairy Crest, the Cheese Company and Wiseman Dairies were also fined .

So , indeed, "Every Little Helps" "That ASDA Price"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Price Fixers

Capitalism is all about competition , right ? Wrong , if these stories are to go by .

Four of the world's biggest glass manufacturers have been fined a total of £348.2million for illegally co-ordinating price rises. The firms are Guardian of the US, Pilkington, which is the UK unit of Nippon Sheet Glass, Saint-Gobain of France and Belgium's Glaverbel. The European Commission said the firms had raised or stabilised prices in 2004 and 2005 through illicit contacts.

Between them they control 80% of Europe's market for flat glass. Flat glass is used in products such as windows, glass doors and mirrors.

Then there was this in Canada too

Regulators have launched an investigation into allegations of price-fixing by some of the biggest makers of chocolate bars in Canada. Officials from the Canadian divisions of Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and Mars confirmed the probe is underway.

"We can confirm that we are investigating alleged anticompetitive practices in the chocolate confectionery industry," said the Competition Bureau's John Pecman. "The volume of commerce affected here is definitely potentially in the billions of dollars per year."

And there was this in Australia , as well .

Australian airline Qantas has been fined US$61 million in the United States after it admitted price-rigging freight costs between Australia and the United States. Qantas plead guilty for its role in a price-fixing conspiracy and is the third airline to admit to wrongdoing after British Airways and Korean Air Lines in August pleaded guilty to similar charges.British Airways and Korea Air Lines were each ordered to pay fines of US$300 million for their roles in passenger and freight price fixing conspiracies. The charges say that Qantas participated in meetings, conversations and communications in the US and elsewhere to fix cargo rates on trans-Pacific routes.During the period the breaches occurred Qantas was the biggest cargo carrier between Australia and the US, earning more than $US600 million from trans-Pacific freight.

And another in the USA

A class-action lawsuit was filed against six monitor manufacturers on Tuesday, alleging the companies of being a "global cartel" involved in price-fixing of CRT monitors. The prices of CRT monitors should have fallen as technologically superior products were introduced such as LCD monitors . Instead, for almost a decade, we have seen periods of unnatural and sustained price stability, as well as inexplicable increases in the prices of CRTs . The complaint alleges collusive behavior by the manufacturers, causing the plaintiff and direct purchasers to overpay for CRT monitors.

Yet again , in Australia

Teac is the latest local company successfully prosecuted for price fixing by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after investigations into Topfield set top boxes and Optima computers.The ACCC recently convicted another set top box manufacturer, Topfield, of similar price-fixing charges and fined the company $297,500. The owner of the brand's Australian distributor, Jai Kemp, was also personally fined over $17,000 for his involvement in the misdemeanor.Optima Computers was also prosecuted by the ACCC in December last year for resale price maintenance.According to the report, products sold through The Good Guys, Retravision and Leading Edge were investigated after a complaint was made to the ACCC about alleged resale price maintenance. Optima admitted it had told two of its dealers they should top discounting and raise their prices for Optima computers to Optima's recommended retail prices. The dealers were threatened with having the supply of Optima products withheld or their dealership cancelled.

And in South Africa

Bread is a basic commodity. The anti-competitive practices involving a basic commodity like bread disproportionately affects the poor. On November 12, Tiger Brands was ordered to pay a R98,7-million fine by the Competition Commission after admitting to participating in bread and milling cartels.

In France kids suffered when French trading standards office DGCCRF has called for 10 retailers and 6 manufacturers in the toy market to be fined over price-fixing. The companies under investigation include Carrefour, France's largest retail group, and Danish toy maker Lego.

Just a brief google search has produced the above recent scams . Need we go on ?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Days of Cheap Food to End

Mark Hill, food and agriculture partner at Deloitte, the accountancy firm , warned that rising demand for wheat and maize was bound to result in increases in the price of staple foods. The era of cheap, subsidised food, which had lasted since the war, was over, he said. We are going to see sustained price inflation - a general upward trend for staple foods such as grains, milk and meat.

The price of milk, poultry and pork is also expected to increase because of a rise in the cost of livestock feed . Wheat and maize prices are at their highest level in more than a decade.

The growing trend of turning wheat and corn into alternative fuels had come at a time when stocks had been run down. Grain supplies were already under pressure as a result of bad weather that reduced harvests and pushed up prices last year. Population increases and growing affluence in China and India could double global grain consumption within the next 40 years.