Socialist Worker

Stock market speculators mean starvation for millions

by Mark L Thomas
Issue No. 2214

Speculators are once again driving up the price of staple foods and threatening to push millions of the poorest people around the world into hunger.

The price of wheat has jumped by nearly 50 percent since late June—the fastest rise for 40 years.

The immediate reasons are the heatwave and drought in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and expectations of a poor wheat crop on Canada.

As a result, Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has announced a ban on grain exports for the rest of the year.

The spike in wheat prices is already spilling over to other staple crops, like corn, pushing up prices to consumers across the world.

Yet there is no global shortage of wheat, and the US has just had a bumper harvest.

US farmers are sitting on 30 million tonnes of wheat.

Global grain stocks are around 528 million tonnes—sharply up from a 30-year low in 2007-8.

But, as in 2006-8, speculators are betting on rising prices.

Huge government bailouts saved the banking system from collapse in 2008-9. Now the hedge funds and bankers have returned to trying to make profits out of hunger.

It’s not just the price of wheat that is rocketing upwards.

The price of barley—an important feed grain for animals—is also rising, doubling in six weeks.

The price of meat and poultry is likely to be pushed up as food producers seek to maintain profits.

Prices for other commodities like milk, coffee and cocoa are also rising, driven by speculators.

The brutal insanity of capitalism means that food is turned into a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit.

The result is that millions will continue to starve, not because of a lack of food, but because of a lack of money.

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Tue 10 Aug 2010, 17:16 BST
Issue No. 2214
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