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Home > India > Business > Business Headline > Commodities




Indians, don't eat! Let US eat well!

Bhoolchuk Levidevi/Commodity Online | May 02, 2008 17:25 IST

In an article titled 'Eat less, feed the world: Rice tells India and China', Commodity Online highlighted the morally and socially wrong message Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, gave to the world on how India and China were responsible for world food crisis.

It attracted reaction from a large number of readers.

Was Rice right in blaming India and China? Well, she is partially right but factually wrong.

Imagine that in India alone demand for food increases by almost one per cent for each percentage point of Indian growth. China is not far behind.

Last year, India's food consumption increased almost 5 per cent considering that it had 7 plus GDP growth. India consumes more edible oil than any other country in the world. Most of the staple diet of many countries are soybeans, maize, rice, wheat etc.

Many readers have complained that Rice's statement was taken out of context to sensationalize. Here is what happened.

Actually she was answering to a question 'Many of us are in countries where the predominant source of food is grain, rice, et cetera. And I'm wondering about your thoughts about the US government's thoughts about the skyrocketing prices of grain worldwide?' during her address at Peace Corps 2008 Worldwide Country Director Conference.

Her reply as per the transcript was: "We obviously have to look at places where production seems to be declining and declining to the point that people are actually putting export caps on the amount of food. Now, some of that is not so much declining production as apparently improvement in the diets of people, for instance, in China and India, and then pressures to keep food inside the country. So, that's another element that we have to look at."

She has only expressed what the world is thinking about India and China. Her language was polished and so some of you may believe this is taken out of context but the western countries are 'worried' over what happens in India and China. Not about its starvation and food crisis but its growth.

Today, US and Europe may command militarily power, but India and China have man power and technology prowess. It is without any doubt that this growth is viewed with suspicion and envy by people across the two continents.

In an article titled 'The Struggle to Satisfy China and India's Hunger', Spiegel Online says with their huge populations, China and India exert an unparalleled force on world food markets.

"They are looking abroad as it becomes more difficult for them to be self-sufficient -- and the increasing demand often has disastrous consequences across the globe," it reports.

It further adds that together, the two Asian nations must feed more than a third of the world's population. In times of exploding food prices, their sheer size alone makes the crisis even worse.

The US is worried over a food crisis that is ballooning over its own territory. But the US has always protected large corporations some of which fell apart.

Those crying out for food prices to be fixed should be careful what they wish for. In many countries, dozens of corporations are under investigation for price fixing. In South Africa, the Competition Commission is going after milk producers.

In Spain, the National Competition Commission has gone after retailers selling milk, eggs and bread. In the UK, the Office of Fair Trading has gone after major retailers like Tesco and Asda/WalMart in a widespread investigation into price fixing in milk, food and toiletries, says a blog entry in stuffedandstarved.org

Scientists who run three of the world's leading international agricultural research labs say the worldwide surge in food prices is a predictable result of the neglect of agricultural research over the past two decades.

Another major contributing factor is the developed world's subsidies for biofuels. Experts warns that unless there is an immediate moratorium on biofuels made using food such as maize and oilseeds, the situation will only worsen.

So by merely having one third of the world population, India and China are responsible for global starvation is what many writers stand to tell the world. But they also forget that these countries are the biggest producers of these items. Without any subsidy or help, farmers in India and China toil hard and feed the world, not the other way round.

But it is in the interest of countries like the US to make people believe that India starves the world.

Also read: Eat less, feed the world : Rice tells India and China



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