[DEBATE] : Greed behind food price rises: development bank head
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Wed May 7 09:38:20 BST 2008
Greed behind food price rises: development bank head
Ingrid Melander Reuters US Online Report Top News
May 06, 2008 13:04 EST
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The food price crisis is caused largely by greed
and speculation rather than food shortages, the head of Southern
Africa's development bank said on Tuesday.
Spiraling food costs -- called a "silent tsunami" by the World Food
Program -- have ignited fury and a rash of protests from Haiti to
Somalia to Bangladesh. Exporting countries have curbed shipments to
ensure domestic supplies and tame inflation.
"These increases in food prices are not the consequence of food
shortages, it's the consequence of human greed that is putting at risk
the lives of millions of men, women and children," Jay Naidoo told Reuters.
"There are companies that are making super profits on this issue."
The root causes of the more than 40 percent rise in food prices in the
last year are disputed. Experts point to strong demand from Asian
emerging markets, adverse weather in some producer countries and
increased use of biofuels.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it would give up to $500 million
in emergency loans to regional economies hardest hit by the crisis and
double investment in the farm sector to $2 billion in 2009.
After four days of talks in Madrid, governments remained split on
whether they should use export bans and market intervention to ensure 1
billion poor Asians living on less than $2 a day do not slip back into
hunger and malnutrition.
"Trade measures or price controls are not efficient ways to combat the
food crisis or food price inflation. It distorts the market and could
exacerbate the situation in the international grain market," ADB
President Haruhiko Kuroda told Reuters.
"... the best way to address the immediate difficulty is to strengthen
social safety nets through targeted support for the poor rather than
generalized food subsidies or trade measures or price controls."
Naidoo, of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said on the
sidelines of a conference on malnutrition in Brussels that governments
and world bodies should take concerted action to control surging food
Thai rice prices fell around 10 percent on Tuesday after importers
taking their cue from Manila's decision to scrap a large tender held
back on purchases.
Five Thai exporters quoted prices for 100 percent B trade white rice,
the world's benchmark, at between $900 and $920 a tonne, free on board.
That is down from last week's $990-$998 a tonne.
Calming nerves further, Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter,
backed off its proposal for an "OPEC-style" rice cartel. "If Thailand
was going to set up a rice cartel to fix the price, that would worsen
food security," Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama told reporters.
On Monday, the Philippines, the world's top rice importer, scrapped its
largest rice tender of the year.
Vietnam, the world's second-largest rice exporter, said it was
considering imposing a duty on rice exports because it wants to save
more of the grain for domestic consumption.
In Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo cut import taxes on staples
including "rice, maize, wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, powdered
milk, cement, mackerel, chicken, beef ... and equipment necessary for
production," according to a government statement published on Tuesday.
Traders said the fall in prices could be limited if Myanmar, which has
committed rice exports to neighboring countries, decides to halt
overseas sales and instead starts to import the grain after being hit by
a devastating cyclone.
Some of Myanmar's rice customers are expected to turn to Thailand for
supplies after the military-ruled country was lashed by Cyclone Nagris.
The storm killed up to 22,500 people and ripped through Myanmar's
Irrawaddy delta, its main rice growing area once dubbed the "rice bowl
(Reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat in Bangkok, Sebastian Tong and
Yoo Choonsik in Madrid; additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Kinshasa;
editing by Robert Woodward)
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