In Corrupt Global Food System, Farmland Is the New Gold

Stephen Leahy
IPS News

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 13, 2011 (IPS) – Famine-hollowed farmers watch trucks loaded with grain grown on their ancestral lands heading for the nearest port, destined to fill richer bellies in foreign lands. This scene has become all too common since the 2008 food crisis.

Food prices are even higher now in many countries, sparking another cycle of hunger riots in the Middle East and South Asia last weekend. While bad weather gets the blame for rising prices, the instant price hikes of recent times are largely due to market speculation in a corrupt global food system.

The 2008 food crisis awoke much of the world’s investment community to the profitable reality that hungry people will do almost anything, even sell their own children, in order to eat. And with the global financial crisis, food and farmland became the “new gold” for some of the biggest investors, experts agree.

In 2010, wheat futures rose 47 percent, U.S. corn was up more than 50 percent, and soybeans rose 34 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S.-based Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, announced a tripling of profits. The firm generated 1.49 billion dollars in three months between September and November 2010.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Bills pay a return of less than one percent.

“We have set up a global food system that supports speculation. And with [such] markets, we can’t get speculators out of the food business,” said Lester Brown, an agricultural policy expert and founder of the Washington- based Earth Policy Institute.

“Farmland is better gold than gold for speculators,” Brown told IPS.

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