Thirty seven countries in the world have seen food riots and social unrest!
The urban poor have been hard hit, a new historic experience!
All time high prices rice, wheat and dairy products!
The price of rice had doubled in one year, the other crops, wheat, soya bean and sugar and dairy products have seen large increases.
The Rome-based FAO has organised a world summit of leaders to tackle the world-wide rise in food prices.
Certainly, this is an unprecedented crisis that might put the lives of millions of poor, in poor countries to threats of starvation, malnutrition and must be able to address the problems of the poor dying in hunger. Certainly there will be calla for food aid, pledging funds for such an aid and also to set international guidelines for cultivation of crops for biofuels which some have blamed for diverting land from food crops to biofuel crops and also to find new ways to boost food production.
Thirty seven countries in the world, including Egypt, Camarroon, Niger and Haiti saw food riots on a wide scale. Food riots are seen now as bigger threat to international stability and peace than even terrorism! Such is the unprecedented food price rise, say observers and experts are divided as to what solutions to put forward to bring about a sort of normalcy to human life.
This is the first time we see ,first the FAO meet, then the EU council, and then the WTO meet, all focusing on the emerging food crisis. More than ever, the WTO meet would see a timeliness, a very opportune moment to see the world trade negotiations as life and death issue for the participants. This is a time when what we need is high wisdom to tackle an international crisis that left unattended or attended from any narrow point of view would eventually englulf the entire world. USA would stand to loose heavily, given its high commitment to protecting its farmers, the subsidy regime would go out of control and every other major crisis in any other country is likely to impact the American economy badly.
American has to export large quantities of foodgrains and other agri products, then the WTO obligations and terms and restrictions on other countries food exports would first impact the US only. So too the EU would stand to lose. The urban poor in the developed world would be hard hit, than the relatively placed urban poor in the developing countries.
Some experts have already made the point. Lowering the international trade barriers is a must. There are some hard realities. The farm subsidies in the West are so high that they cost one billion dollars a day! The farm support schemes in the USA and EU cost of the poor farmers in the developing countries as much as one hundred billion dollars of lost income a year. TO must succeed or otherwise, the world poverty levels might upset the international peace, the hungry in the world might even now is at 854 million and the number only would rise and that would spell so much danger. US elections and the Indian elections, many have pointed out, including UK, as likely to make us the opportunity here and now and so hurry up, it is this message that is now widely reported by many.
There are some novel schemes to tackle the food crisis, in the short, medium and long term. One put forward by Arvind Subramanyam, at the Global Development in Washington is to release in the short term, the US Administration and the Congress, in addition to what they have done, can exert Japan which is holding a large stock of rice under WTO obligations. This rice can be released to the poor countries. Now, it is dumped as feed to animals. Japan cannot re-export rice unless US permits it, under the earlier agreements. US can help more, by just relaxing its current restrictions on the need that US be the source of food purchase under the (WTO?)Obligations. The US, it is pointed out, can easily increase buy upto 50 per cent of more for aid. These two proposals can in the short term can ease the pressure on food supplies. Also, the FAO or any other competent agency must ease the pressure on rice exporting countries, Cambodia and Vietnam and Thailand and also including India not to export rice. Under some formula, rice exporting countries must be assisted to continue to export rice to needy countries.
The medium and the long terms measures are well-known. Help to create a second green revolution.
There is immense scope but one doesn’t know where this can be done. Africa is obviously the best place to bring this about.
All our latest technologies, production inpurs, new seeds, biotechnology etc must surely help to double or triple the current yields.
There areas in India at present, lots of institutional changes needed. Public banks, agri credit banks, agri insurance and many initiatives like contract farming legislation, elimination of intermediaries, the old days brokers in agri marketing and the new investment incentives to bring in a type of “capitalist’ type farming, large scale commercial farming, involvement of small and marginal farmers in contract farming would surely raise the yields and farm incomes. More incomes to farmers are the critical element.