FT-CI

Summit of the FAO

They are profiting from the hunger of millions

19/06/2008

They are profiting from the hunger of millions

Hunger hovers over dozens of countries, while inflation destroys
wages. The summit of the FAO in Rome took place in this context
between June 3 and 5. If it depends on them, the worst is about to
come. The only solution is in the hands of the working class and the
impoverished masses.

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is an organization of
the UN devoted to agriculture and food, to "help to build a world
without hunger." The FAO Summit in Rome brought together dozens of
Presidents, Heads of State and Ministers, together with front-line
officials of such benign organizations as the World Bank. The
obscurantist Pope Ratzinger was also present, and the building where
the sessions took place was protected by thousands of police, who
contributed the appropriate repressive contingent to the event.
Cristina Kirchner and Lula Da Silva were also prominent figures.

It was called in the face of the tremendous food crisis and the
outbreaks of hunger in dozens of countries throughout the world,
unleashed by enormous inflation that affects the so-
called "commodities" that are fundamentally fuels, raw materials and
food. In the case of fuels, in scarcely 3 years, a barrel of oil
shot up from $44 to $130 (more than 200%). The impact of this
product, a pillar of the world economy, has been enormous in
increasing the cost of production and freight. In the same period,
food increased a total of 83%. Among foods, the products that are
the nutritional basis for hundreds of millions of inhabitants the
world over, increased the most: rice, corn [maize], and wheat rose
180% during the same period. According to the FAO itself, more than
37 countries are at risk of social instability because there is a
shortage of food, with more than 800 million people suffering this
scourge.

The real causes of hunger

This is the concrete sign of the poor health of the world economy:
strong inflationary pressure, fundamentally caused by the movement
of big amounts of speculative capital to the commodity futures
markets (where stocks are purchased in advance) that function as a
bubble increasing the prices of grains and fuels and the profits of
the capitalists.

That is how the imperialist octopi in agriculture and food are now
making more than ever, while hunger and inflation devastate the
world. In the food crisis so far, Monsanto’s profits have increased
by 100%, those of Cargill, by 86%, and it could continue like that.
To this must be added the strong pressure that biofuels production
is creating. Although Lula "the progressive" has insisted on denying
it, it is a fact that the exponential increase in biofuel
production, has become another driving force in the increase in
prices of food. In many cases, it is now becoming more profitable to
set aside corn [maize] to produce ethanol, than to feed the
population. In 2007, the US diverted 54 million tons to produce
the "green" fuel. This year, that number will increase to 76 million
tons, and next year it will exceed 100 million tons. In Mexico, the
price increase for the tortilla, the basis for the nutrition of tens
of millions in that country, was directly connected to this
situation.

The response of the FAO

Faced with the alarming reality of hunger, the Summit was rich
in "denunciations" and "criticisms" of the terrible scourge that has
fallen on millions, as well as "requests for help" to alleviate it.
But when we go to the solutions these ladies and gentlemen have
taken to solve the crisis, all their speeches only "nourish"
cynicism and hypocrisy on their part, and anger on ours.

Among the resolutions is "increasing food production"
and "eliminating obstacles to international trade." Both things will
only increase the problem of hunger, adding a big ecological impact
because of the extension of the agricultural frontier over forests
and jungles, and increase the profits of the big agricultural
monopolies still further. Although the increase in demand from China
and other countries has been very large, it is not true that the
present situation is owing to a "crisis in supply," to an
impossibility of satisfying the demand for food. In the last 30
years, world production has tripled while the population has only
doubled. Today 17% more calories are produced on the world scale
than formerly, in spite of the increase in population. The problem
is that more money is constantly needed to buy food, and the poor
find themselves forced to consume less or are directly turned over
to public assistance.

This too is a consequence of growing monopoly concentration.
Five "agrobusiness" world giants now hold 80% of the food market and
receive US and European state subsidies of many millions of dollars.
In this way, local grain production by small producers in the
countries of Latin America or Africa, that find themselves forced to
accept terms and conditions from those octopi, thirsty for bigger
profits, tends to be ruined.

In this context, the speech by Ban Ki-moon that "it is necessary to
raise global production 50% by 2050," becomes an excuse for
promoting "modernization" of agricultural production of hundreds of
thousands of rural small producers in the world, which only means
transforming those producers into hostages of the big monopolies
that control the seeds, agricultural chemicals and (extremely
contaminating) production methods, and that they will impose prices
and conditions on those producers. This in spite of the fact that in
some places and sectors, they may be benefiting at the moment from
high prices, as is happening in Argentina. The calls to remove the
restrictions on "international trade" are going in the same
direction. It is a question of food-producing countries becoming
dependent on the monopolies, as already happened in Haiti or Rwanda
during the neo-liberal offensive of the 1990s.

The only solution is in the hands of the toiling classes

Finally, the document from the Summit did not constitute a
commitment for anyone, since, as we have seen, they are not
interested in solving the problem, but in taking advantage of the
crisis to increase capitalist profits. Meanwhile, in addition,
differences arose between the imperialist countries together with
Brazil, that did not accept any responsibility for the fervent
production of biofuels during the food crisis, and some other food-
producing countries. In the final declaration, both the US and the
European Union flatly refused any mention of the millions of dollars
in subsidies that they give their producers and that prevent food
produced in poor countries from being competitive. For its part,
Argentina was unable to agree to a declaration that included
[removing] "restrictions" on trade, which could be interpreted as
contrary to the local policy of holding back exports.

Only the working class, together with impoverished rural small
producers and the millions of rural workers, can give a progressive
solution to the crisis. In the imperialist centers, like the US and
Europe, it is necessary to expropriate the big agrobusiness
monopolies. In food-producing countries like Argentina, the
landowners must be expropriated and the land distributed among
small, poor rural producers that work it, and the business of
commercialization must be seized from the imperialist
multinationals, by establishing the monopoly of foreign trade. Only
on this basis, by attacking the interests of national and foreign
capitalists, can production and distribution of food be planned and
put at the service of the great masses the world over.

Translation by Yosef M.

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