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Oxfam Urges Reform Of 'Broken Food System'

  • Antoine Blua

A sharp drop in Azerbaijani wheat production has resulted in the country being identified by Oxfam as one of four food insecurity "hotspots."

A sharp drop in Azerbaijani wheat production has resulted in the country being identified by Oxfam as one of four food insecurity "hotspots."

The British charity Oxfam is calling for an overhaul of the global food system, warning that otherwise prices of staple foods could more than double in the next 20 years, pushing millions of people deeper into poverty.

Oxfam predicts that population growth coupled with growing demand for food, flat crop yields, ecological degradation, and climate change will add pressure to what campaign manager Adam Askew calls a "broken food system."

"The global food system is broken. There's almost a billion people going hungry, and that's one in seven people," Askew says. "And at the same time, we're at a time when natural resources are seriously depleted and the impact of climate change is increasing. So Oxfam is putting a warning sign out there to ensure that we take immediate action on these issues."

In a new report titled "Growing A Better Future: Food Justice In A Resource-Constrained World," Oxfam says the international community is "sleepwalking into an unprecedented and avoidable human development reversal."
http://www.oxfam.org.au/site-media/wp-uploads/2011/05/Oxfam-GRO W-Growing-a-better-future-Report-FINAL.pdf

Disturbing Trends

By 2030, Oxfam predicts that the average cost of key crops will increase by between 120 and 180 percent.

Millions more people would be gripped by hunger with agriculture struggling to keep pace with the demands associated with a growing population.

By 2050, the global population is forecast to rise by one-third to more than 9 billion, while Oxfam says demand for food would rise even higher -- by 70 percent -- as more prosperous economies demand more calories.

Climate change would meanwhile have started to bite, with drought, flood, and storms affecting already flattening crop yields.

The growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to just a fraction of one percent by 2020.

In April, the World Bank warned that global food prices were 36 percent above their levels a year before.

According to the World Bank's "Food Price Watch," 44 million people were driven into poverty between June 2010 and April 2011 as a result of the spikes.

Poor Worst-Affected

Poorer countries have experienced greater food inflation than higher-income economies. In Kyrgyzstan, where the poorest 10 percent of the population spends more than 70 percent of its budget on food, food price inflation in 2010 was 27 percent.

Askew says many Armenians are facing a similar situation.

"In Armenia for example, there's lots of issues around food prices and we've met a woman -- called Irena -- and she told us that there's a lot of things that she'd like to buy her children -- bananas, oranges, and kiwis -- but they are 800 or 900 drams a kilo," Askew says. "A big bag of flour or bread is now 7,000 drams, and this means that the people -- Irena, in particular -- are in debt."

Solutions envisaged by Oxfam include building a multilateral system of food reserves, ending policies promoting biofuels, regulating speculation on the international food market, and investing in smallholder farmers and in a global climate fund.

Ahead of the UN climate summit in December in Durban, South Africa, Oxfam is also calling on world leaders to launch a global climate fund to help those who are unable to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

compiled from agency reports
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