Letters: World food markets

Riots show how food markets fail to work for the poor

Related Topics

Sir: The Haitian food riots illustrate the impossible situation that developing countries are in. Aid and trade policies imposed by rich countries have made developing countries more dependent on international markets. Aid for agriculture is now less than half what it was in 1984. At the same time, governments in the developing world have been encouraged by aid donors to open their markets to imports to meet consumer needs.

Recent price rises have proved this to be a high-risk strategy. Developing countries spend twice as much of their hard-earned foreign exchange on food imports as in 2000. It's the poor who suffer. Even farmers need to purchase some food. Any increase in the price they get for their produce is not enough to offset the higher prices for the food they buy. And as Haiti shows, in the cities price rises are becoming a political flashpoint.

In the long run, the interests of both producers and consumers can only be met by increasing agricultural productivity at home. Food producers – who make up most of the 854 million people in the world who go hungry daily – could then meet more of their own needs, and by selling more would reduce the upward pressure on domestic prices. Consumers too would consequently feel the benefit of a more stable supply.

Dr Claire Melamed

Head, Trade and Corporates Action, Aid UK, London N19

Sir: Your report on the global grain shortage ("Starving Haitains riot as food prices soar", 10 April ) is a sign of a catastrophe facing the world. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), according to your report, can only advise governments to improve crop irrigation and storage. The FAO fails to mention the two major causes of the impending crisis: land being used to produce biofuel, and food grains being diverted to feed animals raised for meat.

In the last two years the US has diverted 60 million tonnes of food to fuel. Almost 60 billion animals are raised worldwide for meat every year and the grains needed to feed them could feed over 4 billion human beings. From South America to Africa to Asia the double whammy of biofuel and grains diverted to feed animals is beginning to cause hunger.

The world population is set to rise to 9.5 billion in a few years and unless we in the West and the rising middle classes of China and India revert to a plant-based vegetarian and vegan diet, mass starvation is a certainty. Biofuel is supposed to be good for the environment, but it is the billions of farm animals that are contributing more to global warming than all the world's transport put together.

Nitin Mehta

Croydon, Surrey

Euro confounds the sceptics

Sir: Your economics editor (10 April), does well to remind us of the misleading eurosceptic propaganda about the durability of the euro. He also emphasises the extent to which the pound sterling has fluctuated against it. A rise in sterling by more than 20 per cent in the early years has recently been followed by a steep fall to far below the initial level.

With the uncertainty of a fluctuating exchange rate opposite our main market, it is hardly surprising that UK industrial investment has fallen by almost a third over the past decade, whereas that in the eurozone has maintained its level. Also, despite occasional false dawns, our industrial production has been essentially flat, whilst that in the eurozone has expanded by 25 per cent.

Given that they have been facing the same competitive challenge from the emerging world as we have, why the difference? Could operating from a huge home market with a common currency have been an advantage not only in Europe but in worldwide competition? Perhaps it is time to re-examine the prevailing eurosceptic orthodoxy.

Maurice Tuck

Surbiton, Surrey

Sir: You say that the euro "would help to attract foreign investment". But the latest available OECD figures show that in 2006 Britain attracted more foreign direct investment than France and Germany combined.

It's clear that Britain doesn't need the single currency to succeed in the global economy. Indeed, if Britain is luring foreign investors so successfully, why would we want to shackle ourselves through the euro to an economic area in long-term decline?

Martin Callanan MEP (C, North-East England), Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir: There are a couple of questions missing from your Economics Editor's helpful question-and-answer piece on currency fluctuations. Is what is happening not what used to be called a devaluation of the pound? And, if so, why is the erstwhile dreaded term no longer used?

David Stephen

North Tamerton, Cornwall

We're next for the Olympic curse

Sir: I fear that the Olympic torch fiasco presages much worse for the summer to come. Already we hear the bleat "Let us keep politics out of sport", which is trotted out every time sport is shown for what it is – an exercise in chauvinism and xenophobia. Trying to keep politics out of sport makes as much sense as trying to keep sex out of pornography.

The Olympic Games have become a ludicrous excess of beggar-my-neighbour international ostentation as city after city goes to absurd lengths to put on a bigger show than its predecessor. Cities such as Atlanta and Barcelona are bankrupted for decades, so that some young, strong, chemically-enhanced millionaire can be seen to be able to run slightly faster than some other young, strong chemically-enhanced millionaire.

What of the ideals of sportsmanship and comradely rivalry? Sport is about winning and someone else losing. I never once met a sportsman who ever displayed any of those noble ideals which they ascribe to themselves, such as fair play and putting the game ahead of the result.

In 2012, the Olympic curse falls on London. In that dreadful long, hot summer four years from now, when Terminal Five will be fixed and already bursting at the seams, life in London will become a foretaste of hell. The underground will not be able to cope, the streets will be lined with steel barriers and there will be armed police on every corner. Citizens will be subject to random identity checks and will find themselves waiting in the heat and pollution for even longer than they do at present while Tube stations are closed "for security reasons" or streets are closed off awaiting the bomb disposal squad.

But will the 2012 London Olympics be a success? They certainly will be because they are a political event staged for politicians who will declare them a success whatever happens.

Chris Payne

Plesidy, France

Sir: So Gordon is not going to the opening ceremony in Beijing. Big deal. Maybe he can also refrain from meeting CBI leaders who are now doing more business than ever with this "odious" regime.

Steven Calrow


Rights logo and the Dalai Lama's robes

Sir: In her article "UN blunders with human rights logo resembling robes of the Dalai Lama" (2 April) Anne Penketh says the UN "has been embarrassed" because of the colours it chose for the logo to commemorate this year's 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are not embarrassed. Nor is it a blunder. The colours of the logo and those habitually worn by the Dalai Lama are – now you point it out – quite similar, though not identical. As the article itself says, this is a coincidence. Take any two colours and you will find they are used by someone else, somewhere else, for some other purpose.

It is also incorrect to say "the UN decided to ditch its blue and white logo" in favour of the new one. Neither the UN logo nor that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is being replaced by the new logo, which was adopted specifically to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration.

Rupert Colville

Spokesperson, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva

Saving the forests really does help

Sir: The article about carbon offsetting (3 April; letters, 6 April) is confused. At first, it seems to say the entirety of rainforest preservation is a waste-of-time distraction designed only to make people feel good. Then, at the end, the "What you can do" section is all about rainforest preservation.

Recent studies led by Ken Caldeira at Stanford University suggest that intact tropical rainforests in particular are extremely important for their greenhouse gas storage potential, relative to, say, temperate forests.

There is a trend in climate discussions to devalue individual solutions (be it wind energy, alternative fuels, habitat preservation, conservation, investment in public transit infrastructure, and so on) because each one is not going to solve the climate crisis by itself.

There is, and will not be, any single solution to climate change. So let's get past the bickering, and move towards real climate solutions.

Dr Jason Hodin

Lab of Environmental Toxicology, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, California, USA

High-value design for the new coins

Sir: As an admirer of Richard Ingrams' usually insightful column, I was surprised and disappointed by his article criticising the new designs for the UK coinage (5 April).

Mr Ingrams says it intrigues him "how it could take three years to produce designs which anyone else could probably run up in the course of an afternoon". Is Mr Ingrams suggesting that anyone, and by implication himself, could generate and develop a workable design?

The design process begins with getting an idea. It would then include finding the appropriate reference, organising the heraldic elements, choosing acceptable lettering, then sizing and spacing the lettering and image to produce a visual good enough to convince the illustrious but diverse Royal Mint design board to choose it from a large number of entries.

Is he proposing that anyone could make the numerous adjustments required by the committee, then work with a skilled engraver to meet the demands of modern coining machinery whilst checking every detail at each stage to ensure perfection – and all in the course of an afternoon? Astonishing!

In my experience, far from being able to produce even a basic design, most people can seldom make a coherent visual statement of any kind, or distinguish good design from bad. Which is why professional organisations continue to employ professional designers.

Matthew Dent, the designer of our new coinage, graduated with a BA (Hons) in graphic design from the University of Brighton. If Mr Ingrams could spare three years, the Brighton design staff would be happy to try to instil some basic design principles into him, assuming, of course, that he has some natural aptitude and an ability to meet our entrance criteria.

Tom Sawyer

Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, University of Brighton

Undesirable aliens in our midst

Sir: With regard to the debate as to whether there should be a quota for immigrants, I wonder if instead there couldn't be a quota for racists? With their constant moaning, tedious text "jokes" and pathetic justifications for their beliefs, surely there is no place for them in society.

I'm sure the Government has difficulty keeping a track on the number of racists in the country, but perhaps such people could be asked to take a "tolerance test", at a cost of say, £500? Failure to pass the test would result in them being deported. I'm not sure where they should be sent, but perhaps Zimbabwe – I'm sure Mugabe would know how to deal with them.

Nick Fisk



Rival conspiracies

Sir: Fred Phipps (letter, 10 April) is wrong to suggest that now the Diana death fiasco is over, we can "get on with sorting out who killed JFK". Clearly, in the interests of balance and justice, we should instead spend another £10m trying to prove or disprove that Mohamed Al Fayed recently infected Prince Philip's chest.

Sean Cordell


Welfare reform

Sir: Andrew Neil's attempt (letter, 4 April) to rebut Johann Hari's argument that his BBC presenting is biased to the right merely proves Hari was correct. Neil claims child poverty has not increased as a result of welfare reform. He is then forced to admit that it has risen significantly in the decade since welfare reform was passed, but claims this is a coincidence. He is wrong. The welfare shelter where I worked in Chicago soon began to fill with moms and kids who had been cut off from benefits since the reforms.

Dr Yulia Markowitz

Lowestoft, Suffolk

Privatised Pat

Sir: I was interested to read that Postman Pat is to be brought "up to date", using helicopters and parachutes, as a sort of Post Office answer to the Milk Tray man (report, 10 April). As a former employee of Royal Mail, who had much pride in the service, I feel a truer way to bring Pat "up to date" would be having him either on the dole or on a casual contract, with little or no career prospects. The village post office would be closed and poor old Mrs Goggins on benefits.

Martin J Bedford


Free to wander

Sir: Michael Bywater misses out a fundamental difference between maps and satnav (Extra, 9 April). Satnav tells you how to get from A to B: a map can show you what is just to the left or right of your journey. Since I started a project at Corby, my Ordnance Survey map has led me to the Eleanor Cross at Geddington, one of the longest rail viaducts in the UK and numerous attractive villages with nice pubs. My colleagues with satnav have found the shortest route from hotel to work.

Clive Tiney


Romantic notions

Sir: All weekend I have listened to the BBC and Sky reporters talking of the "romance" of the FA cup. The romance being the fact that three championship sides made it to the semi-finals rather then the expected Premiership opponents. So romance is an underdog making it to a football final at Wembley. Now I understand the difference between men and women.

Gail Ashington

Hednesford, Staffordshire

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game