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Helping the poor buy food

Posted by Richard D North in Food / Green on 17 April 2008

Why we posted this: It’s the beginning of serious thinking about a major new problem.

The original story:
Governments can no longer ignore the cries of the hungry

Alan Beattie
The Financial Times
5 April, 2008

The story in brief:
Here are three quotes from the article

Concern is shifting from the farmers whose interests often predominate at times of plenty to the angry and desperate urbanites, particularly those living within rioting distance of the presidential palace, who cannot afford food at times of shortage.

Now, the way in which many of these governments – Egypt, India, Argentina – are going about this task is not a clever one. Rather than softening the blow by giving cash transfers to poor households, they are trying to rig the agricultural market by banning food exports.

Governments across the world need to plan to deliver cheap food – not to please truculent farmers – and to let free markets deliver it as far as is prudent. The world’s poor need to be freed from the hunger that threatens once more to entrap them.

livingissues comment:
Mr Beattie argues that governments in “poor” countries too often pander to farmers rather than to poor urbanites. He suggests, however, that when the attention turns to the poor urbanites, policy isn’t always well designed.

I don’t think this article tells us enough about the options the world’s politicians now have. But it is a good beginning towards helping people understand that there is quite a lot of food around – the problem is how to ensure the poor have access to it. Making them less poor (by giving them money) may be better than interfering to make food cheaper.

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