Speculating in Hunger – Are Investors Contributing to the Global Food Crisis?


Investment newsletters are now featuring headlines like “How You Can Profit from the Global Food Crisis.” The encouraged investments include agribusiness stocks and exchange-traded price range (ETFs) that speculate in agricultural commodities. These investments will absolute confidence do very well in the global food disaster; however, earlier than you placed your money down, you can want to discover whether or not you may be assisting in relieving the hassle of truly contributing to it. Do you actually need to “invest” in hunger? In an April 23 article within the German news source, Spiegel Online called “Deadly Greed: The Role of Speculators within the Global Food Crisis,” Balzli and Horning word, “Many buyers . . . Are in reality oblivious to the fact that by way of investing in the international online casino, they might be playing away from each day food delivery to the sector’s poorest human beings.”

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At the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur, has referred to as the exploding meals disaster “a silent mass homicide.” In an interview inside the French day by day Liberation on April 14, he said, “We are heading for a completely lengthy duration of rioting, conflicts [and] waves of uncontrollable regional instability marked by using the depression of the maximum prone populations.” He blamed globalization and multinationals for “monopolizing the riches of the earth.” He stated that a mass rebellion of ravenous humans towards their persecutors is “just as feasible as the French Revolution was.”

In a few places, in truth, that is already going on. In Haiti, in which the fee of rice has almost doubled due to December, the prime minister became fired this month through competition senators after greater than every week of riots over the price of staple ingredients. Violent protests over food charges had been set off in Bangladesh, in which rice has also doubled; inside the Ivory Coast, wherein food costs have soared through 30 to 60 percent from one week to the next; and in Egypt, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Italy. In an April 21 Wall Street Journal article titled “Load Up the Pantry,” Brett Arends located that the meals riots now seen in the developing international could soon be affecting Americans as properly. Rocketing meal prices are not a passing section but are without a doubt accelerating. He recommends hoarding food – now not due to the fact he’s definitely awaiting a shortage, however as funding, due to the fact “food costs are already growing here a great deal quicker than the returns you’re likely to get from maintaining your money in a financial institution or cash-marketplace fund.” Arends goes on:

“The essential motive for rising prices, of the route, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of thousands and thousands of people join the middle class every 12 months, which means they need to eat greater and higher meals. A secondary motive has been the growing call for ethanol as a fuel additive. That’s soaking up some of the corn supply.”

That’s the motive posted inside the Journal of Wall Street, the monetary community that introduced us to the housing bubble, the derivatives bubble, and now the commodities bubble, producing the subprime crisis, the credit disaster, and the oil crisis. The major motive for the flood disaster, says this creator, is that the Chinese and Indian center classes are ingesting better. Really? Rice has been the staple meal of half the sector for hundreds of years, and it’s far hardly ever rich man’s fare. Moreover, according to an April 2008 evaluation of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, meal consumption of grains has long gone up by way of handiest one percent in view that 2006.

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That hardly ever explains the reality that the price of rice has spiked by 75 percent in just two months. The rate of Thai one hundred in keeping with cent B grade white rice, taken into consideration the arena’s benchmark, has tripled given that early 2007; and it jumped 10 percent in just one week. The reality that corn is being diverted to gas, while absolute confidence a contributing factor, is likewise insufficient to explain those surprising jumps in charge. World populace boom rates have dropped dramatically because of the Nineteen Eighties, and according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, grain availability has persevered to outpace the population. Biofuels have tired off some of this grain, however biofuels did no longer suddenly occur, and neither did the rise of the Asian center elegance. If the ones were the chief elements, the rise in meal prices could have been gradual and predictable to match.

Another cause of the surprising bounce in grain fees, now not referred to by way of this Wall Street Journal writer, is suggested by William Pfaff in the April 16 International Herald Tribune: “More essential is the effect of hypothesis in meals as a commodity – like oil and precious metals. It has emerged as a haven for monetary investors fleeing from paper assets tainted with the aid of subprime mortgages and other poisonous credit products. The inflow of buyers drives prices and makes meals unaffordable for the arena’s terrible. ‘Fund money flowing into agriculture has boosted prices,’ Standard Chartered Bank meals commodities analyst Abah Ofon advised the media. ‘It’s elegant. This is the 12 months of agricultural commodities.'”

The “warm cash” that has fled the collapsed real estate bubble is now getting into the commodities bubble, and that includes food. “Hot cash” is an influx of speculative capital searching for excessive quotes of return, speedy shifting from one market to every other. It moves, but not because the products are better (the traditional justification for charge-putting consistent with “unfastened marketplace forces”), but due to the fact, the speculative “spread” is better. Money is invested not in making actual items and services but in reality in making extra cash. Food expenses are being driven via speculators. Nowadays, that consists of normal investors such as you and me, who can now gamble in agricultural futures through ETFs that have previously spread out a moneymaking marketplace to be had best to massive investment gamers.

The conventional economic concept says that costs are driven up whilst “call for” exceeds “deliver.” But in this situation, “call for” does now not imply the variety of arms reaching out for meals. It manner the quantity of money competing for existing materials. The global meals crisis has resulted from an increase, no longer inside the number of mouths to be fed, but in reality in the charge. It is the money deliver that has long passed up, and it is funding money on the lookout for short income that is largely driving food expenses up. Much of this seems to be going on within the futures market, wherein fund managers are trying to maximize their profits through futures contracts. Balzli and Horning explain for:

“The futures market is a traditional device for farmers to sell their harvests in advance of time. In a futures agreement, portions, expenses, and delivery dates are fixed once in a while, even earlier than crops had been planted. Futures contracts allow farmers and grain wholesalers a degree of safety against adverse weather situations and immoderate fee fluctuations. . . . But now speculators are taking benefit of this mechanism. They can buy futures contracts for wheat, for instance, at a low fee, betting that the rate will cross up. If the rate of the grain rises through the agreed delivery date, they profit. Some experts now believe those investors have taken over the marketplace, shopping for futures at unprecedented ranges and riding up quick-term prices. Since final August, this mechanism has led to a doubling in the price of rice.”

The authors quote grain wholesaler Greg Warner, who says what is occurring now in the grain futures market is remarkable. “What we generally have is a predictable group of dealers and customers — in particular farmers and silo operators.” But the panorama has changed because of the influx of big index funds into the futures market. “Prices maintain mountain climbing up and up.” Warner calculates that economic investors now keep the rights to two complete annual harvests of a kind of grain traded in Chicago called “tender red winter wheat.” He calls these developments “lovely” and points to them as “proof that capitalism is literally eating itself.”

What approximately investing in agribusinesses and Monsanto promoted the “Green Revolution” through the bioengineering of foods and the production of GMO (genetically changed) seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicide and pesticide sprays? Won’t these businesses, as a minimum, help to relieve the global food crisis? On the opposite, critics say these businesses too are simply driving food expenses up. Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds were genetically engineered so that they can’t reproduce but must be purchased every year from the business enterprise. Small farmers who’ve fallen for the hype of extra productiveness and subjected their land to these seeds and chemical substances have determined that no longer handiest have their yields been reduced; however, the land will not undergo anything besides GMO seeds. Farmers who can now not manage to pay for the seeds are priced out of the market, handing monopoly manages over to the agribusiness giants that could then improve prices to whatever the marketplace will endure; and in the case of meals, it will undergo lots, proper up to the point of slavery. As Henry Kissinger once famously stated, “Who controls the meals deliver controls the people; who controls the power can manipulate whole continents; who controls money can control the sector.”


What are you able to invest in, then, that genuinely would help relieve the worldwide meals disaster? One opportunity is neighborhood organic farming. “Community-supported agriculture” (CSA) is a model of meal production, sales, and distribution to increase the excellent of food and the care given to the land, vegetation, and animals, even reducing losses and dangers for producers. A variety of CSA structures at the moment are in use worldwide, permitting small-scale industrial farmers and gardeners to have a hit, small-scale closed marketplace at the same time as presenting their customer-participants with a regular transport or pick out-up of healthy nearby produce. The USDA affords a listing of CSA addresses and websites.