“This announcement by the Food and Agriculture Organization should ring alarm bells in capitals around the world," said Chris Leather, policy advisor for Oxfam. "Hundreds of thousands of people are already feeling the impact of rapidly increasing food prices. Good harvests are offsetting the worst for many but if prices remain high it will be just a matter of months before the world’s poor are hit by another major food price crisis. Governments need to act now and act together to stop the rot.”
High global food prices risk hunger for millions of people. Poor people in developing countries spend up to 80 per cent of their income on food. "For them high food prices mean selling off their land or sacrificing their child’s education simply to put food on the table,” Leather said.
Oxfam is urging the Committee on Food Security, the global body responsible for tackling hunger, to establish a taskforce of government ministers from rich and poor countries to develop an emergency response plan by June. This plan must act to share information on food stocks, coordinate trade policies and regulate food commodity markets. In the longer term it must address the underlying causes of food price volatility including the neglect of poor farmers and a lack of social safety nets for poor consumers.
“G20 Finance Ministers, who will meet in Paris later this month, must ensure commodity markets are more transparent and do not undermine the right to food," Leather said. "They must increase investment in smallholder agriculture — paying particular attention to the solutions investing in women farmers will bring to the equation — and ensure that poor countries get the support they need to cope with rising food import bills.
“Governments must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when countries reacted to spiralling prices by banning exports and hoarding food," he countined. "This will only make the situation worse and it is the world’s poorest people who will pay the price.”