To get some perspective on the problems of rising food prices and the effect this is having worldwide, euronews spoke to Laurent Levard of GRET, an NGO that sets up sustainable development and fair-trade projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Antoine Juillard, euronews:
“The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says demand for grain has grown to such an extend that this year’s harvest will be barely enough to meet needs. That is one reason for the rise in prices of agricultural products. What do we have to do to increase production, worldwide?”
Laurent Levard, GRET:
“If, right now, there are people on this planet who do not have enough to eat, it’s not a problem of an insufficient supply of food but a problem of distribution of resources and income.
“So, that being said, it’s true, first, that there are problems with some products, particularly due to the huge growth in the use of cereals and other products to make biofuels.
“That means there is competition for crops – such as corn – between their use for biofuels and their use as food.
“That is a real problem and it is also true that in the future humanity will face the challenge of feeding a growing population and at the same time will face the challenge of making the transition to ecological farming, to ensure that agriculture can adapt to climate change. And agriculture should provide jobs for millions of people in the southern hemisphere as they come into the labour market.
euronews: “You believe producing countries should be more open about their food stocks and production. Why is that transparency needed?”
“Transparency is useful because it means everyone involved is better informed and it makes it less likely that middle-men will use their position to abuse the system; transparency also limits market speculation.
“And we have to keep track. If tomorrow there is a fall in production on the world market, it would be good to know that, with as much information as possible, to prevent prices surging worldwide. It’s important that we have stockpiles that can be used if production is up one year and down the next; that way the stockpiles can be used to limit the volatility of market prices.”
euronews: “Commodity speculators are often accused of distorting the market. To what extent are they responsible for the volatility of prices of agricultural products?”
“If speculation has increased in recent years as much as it has, that’s because it has been allowed to happen. Agricultural markets have been deregulated and at the same time major exporters – the European Union and the United States – have decreased their stockpiles. Inventory plays some role in regulating the markets.”
euronews: “What do you want the G20 to do about this?”
“What we would like to see from the international community on these agricultural issues is, first, a recognition that countries and global regions can regulate and protect their domestic agriculture through appropriate trade policies and through policies with regard to stockpiling products. And in addition, the international community should agree on the international market also providing regulation through policies on stockpiling.”