Oxfam calls for swift action on food prices

“At minimum, the G20 must agree to adjust their biofuels targets when food supplies are endangered,” Fox said. “We can’t have one billion people going hungry and keep feeding our SUVs.”

June 21, 2011

Oxfam Canada today called on Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to show leadership at the G20 agriculture ministers’ meeting this week to rein in rising food prices.

“With one-in-seven people going to bed hungry every night, the outcomes of this G20 meeting are crucial,” said Robert Fox, Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director.

Oxfam urged the G20 to scrap damaging biofuel policies, to regulate excessive speculation in commodities markets and to set up emergency food reserves.

Hopes were raised when ten inter-governmental organizations (including the IMF and the WTO) recommended all three measures, as well as requiring more openness on food stocks.

A draft of the G20 communiqué, leaked last week, backs commodities regulation and a pilot program of emergency reserves, but sidesteps biofuels altogether. “The global food system is broken,” said Fox. “Now is not time for half measures. G20 agriculture ministers must move quickly on all fronts to deal with this global food crisis.”

Biofuels subsidies and minimum-content guidelines, such as Canada’s, turn massive quantities of food into fuel, and have set off a scramble to buy up farmland in developing countries, Oxfam said.

“At minimum, the G20 must agree to adjust their biofuels targets when food supplies are endangered,” Fox said. “We can’t have one billion people going hungry and keep feeding our SUVs.”

Oxfam’s call comes with a warning that global grain stocks are dropping alarmingly. When global cereal stocks fall below 15-20% of world consumption, price hikes and market breakdown have followed. By the end of this year, this ratio could be as low as 17%.   

Oxfam is also calling on G20 agricultural ministers to reconsider the case for national food reserves. Food reserves allow countries to better handle the kind of price spikes that left an extra 150 million people hungry in 2008. G20 assistance could ensure these are managed in an efficient and transparent manner.

For more information contact:

Katia Gianneschi
katia.gianneschi@oxfam.ca