Opinion: Europe sleepwalking as global food prices set to double

(Media-Newswire.com) – Global food prices will more than double within 20 years as a new age of crisis forces the collapse of our broken global food system, said Oxfam today. The international development agency said Europe is sleepwalking as the world enters into an unprecedented and avoidable reversal in human development.

The warning comes at the launch of Oxfam’s new global campaign to ensure everyone always has enough to eat. ‘GROW’ is backed by high profile figures including former Brazilian President Lula, Archbishop Emeritus Tutu and Jean Ziegler, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Oxfam’s new report, ‘Growing a Better Future’ catalogues the symptoms of today’s broken food system ( growing hunger, flat-lining yields, a scramble for fertile land and water and rising food prices ) which coupled with environmental crises are now reversing decades of progress against hunger.

New research predicts that the price of staple foods such as maize, already at an all time high, will more than double in the next 20 years. Up to half of this increase will be due to climate change. The world’s poorest people who spend up to 80 per cent of their income on food will be hardest hit.
By 2050 demand for food will rise 70 per cent yet our capacity to increase food production is declining. The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of one percent in the next decade.
Eight million people, a great majority women and girls, face chronic food shortages in East Africa today. Increasing numbers of regional and local crises could see demand for food aid double in the next 10 years.

Like most industrialized countries, Europe places short-term benefits of big business over the interests of taxpayers and hungry people. Unregulated European financial markets reward investors speculating on food prices with soaring returns. The EU’s flawed biofuels policy has already fuelled waves of evictions and landgrabs in developing countries and diverts food from mouths to petrol tanks. Meanwhile, the EU is dragging its feet in international negotiations to tackle climate change – the greatest challenge of all to global food security.

Elise Ford, Head of Oxfam International’s EU office, said:
“The potent combination of power, policies and financial punch gives the European Union the potential to shape the global food security debate. But instead, Europe is sleepwalking as the world enters into an unprecedented and avoidable reversal in human development.”

Oxfam is calling on the European Union to kick-start the transformation to a fairer more sustainable food system, by reforming legislation at home and driving the agenda of the G20 and other key international fora. Europe must take action without delay. It must:

* regulate commodity markets which are driving food price volatility and tackle excessive speculation;
* put an end to the biofuels mandates and subsidies that fuel food price volatility and land grabs in developing countries;
* invest in the 500 million small-scale food producers in poor countries who feed nearly one-third of humanity;
* lead in the fight against climate change and its impacts on global food production.

Jean Ziegler, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said:
“Ahead of a new round of G20 meetings, world leaders have the chance to get serious about tackling world hunger and managing the global financial markets. But the EU must not wait for others. It must act now.”