Oxfam to G20 Finance Ministers: act now on looming food crisis
“Finance ministers will define the G20’s development credentials this week. They could make or break Sarkozy’s pledges to tackle the food price crisis,” said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. “Mr. Flaherty and the other G20 ministers must now deliver on this promise – otherwise G20 leaders will be left looking like emperors with no clothes.”
The World Bank and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have each reported sharp rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs since August. Oxfam has seen a sharp rise in the number of people eating less, less often, and in some case less nutritious food.
“Our evidence is anecdotal for now, but the fact is huge numbers of people are suffering,” Fox said.”In countries around the world, people in rural communities are cutting back on health spending or selling off their animals in order to buy food.”
Oxfam pointed to weather-related crop damage, the continuing push to expand agrifuels production, and speculation in commodity markets as likely underlying causes of the rise in food prices. President Sarkozy has pledged action on speculation at the G20. Since deregulation in 2002, more than US$200 billion in new investment funds have flooded into commodity markets.
“Bad policies have broken the world’s food system. Good policies can fix it,” said Luc Lampriere, Oxfam spokesperson at the meetings. “We have already seen high food prices help to trigger social unrest and Oxfam’s experience from our programs is that poor people are suffering renewed hardship. If you’re earning $20 an hour, this rise in global food prices will eventually hit your pocket. But if you’re earning $20 a month, it can be the difference between eating or not."
Oxfam called on Canada to support improved regulation of financial derivatives based on food commodities to stop any chance of them creating havoc. Fox said: “We’re looking for policy changes from the G20 to calm food markets and help to avert a looming crisis. Canada must do its part.”
Oxfam also urged the G20 to adopt France’s proposal for a coordinated tax on financial transactions, as a way to fund the fight against poverty and climate change. Oxfam research shows that 56 of the poorest countries in the world face a combined US$65 billion hole in their budgets as a result of the economic crisis.
“A financial transactions tax would be like a breath of fresh air clearing away the stench of bankers’ bonuses and offering hope to those trapped by the economic crisis,” Lamprière said.