Press Release - La
A response to the Global Food Prices
Crisis: Sustainable family farming can feed the world
(Rome, 14 February 2008) Consumers around the world have seen the
prices of staple food dramatically increasing over the past months,
creating extreme hardship especially for the poorest communities. Over
a year, wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a
However, there is no crisis of production. Statistics show that
cereals' production has never been as high as in 2007 (1).
Prices are increasing because part of production is now diverted into
agrofuels, global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years due to
the de-regulation of markets by the WTO, and extreme weather has
effected crops in some exporting countries such as Australia. But
prices also increase because financial companies speculate over
people's food as they anticipate that agriculture prices will keep
rising in the near future. Food production, processing and distribution
falls increasingly under the grip of transnational companies
monopolising the markets.
The tragedy of industrial agrofuels:
they feed cars and not people
Agrofuels (fuels produced from plants, agriculture and forestry) are
presented as an answer to the peak in production of oil and global
warming alike. However, many scientists and institutions now recognise
that their energy benefits will be very limited and that their
environmental and social impact will be extremely negative. However,
the whole business world is rushing into that new market that is
directly competing with people food's needs. The Indian government is
talking of planting 14 millions hectares of land with Jatropha,
the Inter-American Development Bank says that Brazil has 120 million
hectares that could be cultivated with agrofuel crops, and an agrofuel
lobby is speaking of 379 million hectares being available in 15 African
countries (2). Current demand for corn in order to produce ethanol
already represents 10% of the world consumption, pushing up world
Industrial agrofuels are an economic, social and environmental
nonsense. Their development should be halted and agricultural
production should focus on food as a priority.
All farmers do not benefit from higher
Record world food prices hit consumers, and contrary to what can be
expected, they do not benefit all producers. Stock breeders are in a
crisis due to the rise in feed prices, cereal producers are facing
sharp rises in fertiliser's prices and landless farmers and
agricultural workers cannot afford to buy food. Farmers sell their
produce at an extremely low price compared to what consumers pay. The
Spanish coordination of farmers and stock breeders (COAG) calculated
that consumers in Spain pay up to 600% more than what the food producer
gets for his/her production.
The first to benefit from higher agricultural prices are the
agro-industry and large retailers because they increase food prices
much more than they should. Will food prices decrease when
agricultural prices go down again? Large companies are able to stock
large quantities of food and release them when the markets prices are
Small farmers and consumers need fair and stable prices, not the
current high volatility. Small farmers cannot produce if prices are too
low, as has often been the case in the last decades. They therefore
need market regulations, the opposite of the WTO policies.
“liberalisation” leads to crisis
The current crisis reveals that
agricultural trade “liberalisation” leads to hunger and poverty.
Countries have become extremely dependant on global markets. In 1992,
Indonesian farmers produced enough soya to supply the domestic market.
Soya-based tofu and 'tempeh' are an important part of the daily diet
throughout the archipelago. Following the neo-liberal doctrine, the
country opened its borders to food imports, allowing cheap US soya to
flood the market. This destroyed national production. Today, 60% of the
soya consumed in Indonesia is imported. Record prices for US soya last
January led to a national crisis when the price of 'tempeh' and tofu
(the « meat of the poor ») doubled in a few weeks. The same
scenario applies to many countries, for example for corn production in
Deregulation and privatisation of safeguard mechanisms are also
contributing to the current crisis. National food reserves have been
privatised and are now run like transnational companies. They act as
speculators instead of protecting farmers and consumers. Likewise,
guaranteed prize mechanisms are being dismantled all over the world as
part of the neo-liberal policies package, exposing farmers and
consumers to extreme price volatility.
Time for Food Sovereignty!
Due to the expected growth of world population until 2050 and the need
to face climate change, the world will have to produce more food in the
years to come. Farmers are able to meet that challenge as they
have done in the past. Indeed, the world population doubled in the past
50 years but farmers have increased cereal production even faster.
Via Campesina believes that in order to protect livelihoods, jobs,
people's health and the environment, food has to remain in the hands of
small scale sustainable farmers and cannot be left under the control of
large agribusiness companies or supermarket chains. GMOs and industrial
agriculture will not provide healthy food and will further deteriorate
the environment. For example, the new “Green Revolution” pushed by AGRA
in Africa (new seeds, fertilizers and irrigation at large scale) will
not solve the food crisis. It will deepen it. On the other hand, recent
research shows that small organic farms are at least as productive as
conventional farms, some estimates even suggest that global food
production could even increase by as much as 50% with organic
To avoid a major food crisis, governments and public institutions have
to adopt specific policies aimed at protecting the production of the
most important energy in the world: food!
Governments have to develop, promote and protect local production in
order to be less dependent on world food prices. This implies the right
for any country or union to control food imports and the duty to stop
any form of food dumping.
They also have to set up (or to maintain) supply management mechanisms
such as buffer stocks and guaranteed floor prices to create stable
conditions for producers.
According to Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina and
leader of the Indonesian Peasant's Union, « farmers need land to
produce food for their own community and for their country. The time
has come to implement genuine agrarian reforms to allow family farmers
to feed the world. ».
Ibrahim Coulibaly, president of the National Coordination of Peasant's
organisation in Mali said: «Facing extreme rises in food prices,
our government has agreed with the farmers organisations' demand to
develop and protect local food markets instead of increasing imports.
Increasing food imports will only make us more dependent on the
brutal fluctuations of the world market ».
Via Campesina believes that the solution to the current food price
crisis lies in food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right of
peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through
ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right of their
governments to define the food and agriculture policies of their
countries, without damaging agriculture of other countries. It puts the
aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food
at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of
markets and corporations. Food sovereignty prioritises local and
national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family
farmer-driven agriculture and food production.
For more information and to interview world farmers leaders in Rome:
Via Campesina delegation in Rome: +393487276117
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Les Chambres d'Agriculture - France: http://paris.apca.chambagri.fr/
(2) Grain: www.grain.org <http://www.grain.org
(3) “Shattering Myths: Can sustainable agriculture feed the
world?”: www.foodfirst.org <http://www.foodfirst.org