Monday, November 14, 2011

Inflation, land grab and food security

The theme for 2011's World Food Day (i.e. 17 October, 2011) had been: “Food prices–from crisis to stability” and the focus was on volatility in food prices that pushed millions of people into hunger. At the 37th session of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) held at Rome, world leaders agreed that under-investment in agriculture since the last 20 years affected the poor, who had also witnessed soaring and volatile food prices in the recent years. 

The biggest challenge before the world is to meet the food and nutritional demand of nine billion people inhabiting earth by 2050. The present challenge is to meet the nutritional, health, knowledge and skill requirements of women. 

Dr. MS Swaminathan in his speech delivered at the 37th session of CFS explained that price volatility and its relation to food security is also high on the political agenda of G20 in 2011. There are various factors influencing price volatility such as mismatch between demand and supply, cost of petroleum products and non-renewable energy and climate variability.    

The package of measures considered as important by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) are:

1. Revisiting international trade rules, in order to promote a “food security oriented” trading system

2. Creating a better market information system, inclusive on the level of stocks, to help restore confidence in international markets

3. Tightening up speculation on the futures market to avoid price manipulations.

4. Reviewing support to biofuels, except when there is a win-win situation for both food and energy security

5. Reducing food waste and post-harvest losses and ensuring food safety

6. Increasing investment in ever-green agriculture and in agricultural research so as to promote sustainable food production

7. Giving greater attention to the net income of smallholder farmers, through the concurrent enhancement of farm and non-farm income, and through a small farm management revolution designed to provide them with the power and economy of scale both at the production and post-harvest phases.

India's Food Security Bill, according to Swaminathan, is empowering since it considers women as the head of the households. The Right to Food Bill would include millets for distribution, which is going to provide both macro and micronutrients to India’s starving masses and malnourished children. 

The aim of UN Committee on World Food Security is to enhance small farm productivity and profitability on a sustainable manner without causing harm to environment. In the age of land acquisition, conservation of prime farm land for food security is the motto. It has been found that only 20 percent of investments have actually been followed up with agricultural production on the acquired lands, according to Swaminathan. Land grabbing by multinational companies, foreign governments, commercial farmers and financial institutions has come to light recently. 

Image courtesy:


37th session of Committe on World Food Security, 17-22 October, 2011,

Prof. M. S. Swaminathan's statement at the opening session of U.N. Committee on World Food Security, Rome

Food price swings threaten to push millions more people into hunger, UN warns, United Nations, 17 October, 2011,

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