11 April 2008

Zoellick warns on hunger and biofuels

Rocketing global food prices are causing acute problems of hunger and malnutrition in poor countries and have put back the fight against poverty by seven years, the World Bank said yesterday. Robert Zoellick , the Bank's president, called on rich countries to commit an extra $500m (£250m) immediately to the World Food Programme, and sign up to what he called a "New Deal for global food policy".

"In the US and Europe over the last year we have been focusing on the prices of gasoline at the pumps. While many worry about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs. And it's getting more and more difficult every day. In Bangladesh a 2kg bag of rice now consumes almost half of the daily income of a poor family. With little margin for survival, rising prices too often means fewer meals," he said. Poor people in Yemen were now spending more than a quarter of their income on bread. "This is not just about meals forgone today, or about increasing social unrest, it is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth. Even more, we estimate that the effect of this food crisis on poverty reduction worldwide is in the order of seven lost years."

The Bank's analysis chimes with research from the International Monetary Fund which shows that Africa will be the hardest hit continent from rising food prices. More than 20 African countries will see their trade balance worsen by more than 1% of GDP through having to pay more for food.

Gordon Brown has written to his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, who is chairman of the G8 industrialised countries, calling for a "fully-co-ordinated response" to the food crisis.Zoellick welcomed Brown's initiative, and said this weekend's meetings of the World Bank and the IMF had to do more than simply identify the scale of the crisis. The Bank also plans to double its loans to agriculture projects in developing countries in 2008, to $800m.

Riots have broken out in several countries, including Mexico and India, as a response to the rapid rise in the cost of basic foodstuffs over the past 12 months. A number of governments have imposed export bans on commodities, to try to bring prices under control. Zoellick warned against such protectionist responses.He was also critical of the dash to grow crops for biofuels. The US and EU have encouraged wider use of such fuels to try to tackle climate change and provide an alternative to oil, but the policy has sometimes diverted agricultural land away from food and exacerbated price rises.

Liz Stuart, spokeswoman for Oxfam, said: "Europe and the US must stop adding fuel to fire by increasing crop production for biofuels. These have dubious environment benefits, and by driving up prices, are crippling the lives of the poor."


Anonymous said...

So it goes - high price of oil = dearer food. CO2 alarmism = biofuel idiocy. Bushco = international lunacy.

Sean Jeating said...

Now what's behind these 'phenomena': Stupidity? Ignorance? Incompetence? Or ... political will?

jams o donnell said...

It's not just Bushco even if the US consumes an inordinate amount of the world's resources. As for biofuels, I thought it was a stupid idea to try and vultivate plants for conversion into biofuel in any large scale

ood question Sean, good question!

CastoCreations said...

Biofuels are a stupid idea. They take up more land and food. The politicians and those who are making money on all this environmental fear mongering are the only ones benefiting. The earth doesn't care and is going to do its thing regardless of what we do.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, biofuels are a stupid idea.... A better idea is to continue insisting on an highly poluent oil dependent policy which floods corrupt regimes in Middle East and Africa with revenues. Great plan!