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Jamaica PM Portia Simpson Miller Appoints Team to Tackle Looming Food Crisis

THE Portia Simpson Miller Cabinet has established a committee to formulate Jamaica’s response to the possibility of a significant increase in food prices, stemming from the severe drought affecting sections of the United States.

What has been described as the worst drought since the 1930s has been scorching crops and farmlands in US midwestern states, sending global corn and soybean prices soaring to record highs.

The drought has also contributed to an increase in overall food prices, a situation compounded by lower crop yields in other major grain-producing countries like Ukraine, Russia and India.

The United States-based International Food Policy Research Institute, which is supported by governments and international organisations, is indicating that the price of corn has now reached a record US$8.49 a bushel, a 57 per cent hike since early June.

Already, some countries are taking steps to monitor grain exports to ensure that their populations have ample supplies.

Last week, Russia — the world’s third largest wheat exporter — admitted that a poor harvest will force it to considerably cut its foreign deliveries despite worrying spikes in global food prices.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is also indicating that some entities, particularly companies involved in commodities trading, are trying to exploit the crisis.

That concern led the UN food agency and other aid agencies to lash out against the head of one of the world’s leading commodities and agriculture companies after he declared that the current global food crisis has created an environment that is good for business.

“The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities. We will be able to provide the world with solutions… and that should also be good for Glencore,” said the company’s director of agriculture trading, Chris Mahoney in an article published last Thursday in the British newspaper, The Independent.

Following the controversial comment, the aid agencies explained that while the commodity trading companies will make huge profits, the poor, particularly those in developing countries, are likely to suffer.

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