Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

From the Mouths of the Hungry

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

From the Mouths of the Hungry

Article excerpt

ON Monday Ugandan farmer and mother of 11, Polly Apio, will be inviting everyone into a world far removed from what we experience.

Ms Apio is in Australia on a speaking tour, organised by Action Aid, to raise awareness about the reality of hunger as it is experienced around the world, especially in Africa, and especially by women.

There is a common misconception that hunger in today's world is the result of a lack of food. It seems logical enough, and our political leaders promote it widely.

For example, Trade Minister Craig Emerson travelled to Paris this week to attend the meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers to discuss food price volatility, and come up with an action plan to address it. His message was that a[approximately]the single most powerful means of dealing with the food security problem is through agricultural trade liberalisation'. In other words, other countries lower trade barriers to Australian products, creating incentives for our farmers and growers to increase production. We help feed the world, and we get new markets and earnings into the bargain. Simple.

The trouble is, this recipe a this ideology a has been promoted and tried for nearly three decades. It hasn't worked, at least as regards the alleged objectives of combating food insecurity and providing decent livelihoods for farmers.

Since 1980, the numbers of malnourished people worldwide have more than doubled, food price volatility has become endemic as speculators have poured into commodity futures markets, and the terms of trade for most farmers worldwide a Australians included a have steadily worsened.

In any competitive system there are always winners and losers; only in this case, we have well over a billion losers, and a tiny handful of big winners.

Among them is the leading grain processing and meat-packing corporation, Cargill. Cargill's sales have more than doubled since 2000, while its profits have risen 500% to $US2.6- billion in 2010; and that figure is a hefty fall from the $US3.95 billion it earned in 2008, at the height of the last round of extreme food price volatility.

So far this year its profits are up nearly 50% on the 2010 figure, once again taking advantage of the sharp rises in commodity prices. …

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