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Archive for the tag “food crisis”

Cows Come Home Shock Horror

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fundi on agricultural economics and marketing, but this piece in Bishop Alan’s blog makes a lot of sense to me, and I suspect that the behaviour of supermarket chains in South Africa is not all that much different.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror:

Let’s zoom in on the dirty truth about dairy. The Blue is the farm gate price [click on the link to Bishop Alan’s blog to see the graphs]. The Purple is the distributor/ processor element. The Cream, in every sense, is Lord Tesco’s Cut. In 1995, the farmer got about 24 pence a litre, the distributors got about 18, and Lord Tesco and chums got 1 and a bit. That may sound low, but of course he sold many litres compared to the farmer, so he wasn’t exactly short of a few bob. Can you believe it, but these days the farmer gets a bit less, and the distributor much the same, whilst UK supermarkets are taking a huge cut — 10 times as much as back then! The argument for going local is to try and bring some of that margin back to the people who actually do the work. Otherwise some are actually being paid less than 10 years ago. Cut out supermarket Shareholders and for roughly the same price, the farmer gets a living wage.

There’s been quite a bit of talk about land reform in South Africa, but with the example of Zimbabwe’s utterly botched attempt (because its concern was not with the land or the people, but with the political fortunes of ZANU-PF and its leader, Mad Bob Mugabe) many people are understandably somewhat nervous about it. But it goes beyond land and agriculture and political gain, and Bishop Alan’s comments seem to be applicable, mutatis mutandis, to our situation too.

How deregulation destroyed African agriculture

And changed Africa into a food importer

while the diversion of corn from food to biofuel feedstock has been a factor in the meteoric rise in food prices, the more basic problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. Here the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) figure as much more important villains

African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.

in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter


almost every country

a net food importer

the explanation was the phasing out of government controls

to which most African countries were subjected as the price for getting IMF and World Bank assistance

reality refused to conform to the doctrinal expectation that the withdrawal of the state would pave the way for the market and private sector to dynamize agriculture

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Why Haiti starves: USA wiped out its farms

Forced to accept competition from subsidized American rice, Haitian farmers could not survive.

This, of course, is in part the problem of Zimbabwe, though far more damage was done to Zimbabwe’s agriculture and economy by its own government.

Hat-tip to Monte Asbury.

the United States and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, all of which we, the United States, dominate, have for the last twenty-five, thirty years have insisted that in order to get the loans, which Haiti and these other countries, agricultural countries, need,

Haiti had to change their economic system so that their country was open to competition from other countries on agriculture

thirty years ago, Haiti imported almost no rice, was an exporter of sugar and other things. Today, Haiti imports nearly all of its rice.

rice from the United States

at low or below cost—

and destroyed the ability of farmers in Haiti to be able to grow rice. And as a consequence, the country now depends totally on imported rice. Cost of import—cost of rice around the world has gone up over 100 percent since January.

the people of the United States have no idea that

our government has destroyed not just Haiti, but the agricultural bases of lots and lots of very poor countries

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