This is the bleakest World Food Day in a little while. World Foodless Day, some are calling it.
The commodity price boom of early 2008 has passed. Prices are settling down on the international commodity markets, but most of us don’t get our daily bread from the Chicago Board of Trade. And I’ve not noticed any significantly cheaper food being available at the supermarkets.
It looks as if we’re moving into the worst of all possible worlds. Low commodity prices for producers (especially smaller farmers, who didn’t do very well out of the boom in the first place), but a high price for food, because retailers are loath to drop prices that they’ve already spent time getting us accustomed to. This is what economists mean when they say that prices are ‘sticky’.
Since I think we should get used to paying more for food, you’d think I’d approve of us getting used to high prices. But the point of higher prices is to ensure that labour and the environment are valued, and there’s precious little of that happening.
And, what’s worse, the current economic situation means that people are, and will increasingly be, less able to afford food. When a recession hits, it’s not the CEOs that get laid off first.
Peoples’ rights to food will increasingly be violated. Helpfully, the people at FIAN are launching a publication that’ll keep track of these violations. But, as Jeremy Bentham put it “Want is not supply, and hunger is not bread”. In the attempt to make those rights mean something, we can expect to see even more hunger, and organising against it, around the world. Happy World Food Day.