TIL that during the Great Famine, Ireland continued to export enormous quantities of food to England. This kept food prices far too high for the average Irish peasant to afford and was a major contributing factor in the large death toll from the famine.
Goldman Sachs made more than a quarter of a billion pounds last year by speculating on food staples, reigniting the controversy over banks profiting from the global food crisis.
Less than a week after the Bank of England Governor, Sir Mervyn King, slapped Goldman Sachs on the wrist for attempting to save its UK employees millions of pounds in tax by delaying bonus payments, the investment bank faces fresh accusations that it is contributing to rising food prices.
Goldman made about $400m (£251m) in 2012 from investing its clients’ money in a range of “soft commodities”, from wheat and maize to coffee and sugar, according to an analysis for The Independent by the World Development Movement (WDM).
This contributed to the 68 per cent jump in profits for 2012 Goldman announced last week, allowing it to push up the average pay and bonus package of its bankers to £250,000.
The extent of Goldman’s food speculation can be revealed after the UN warned that the world could face a major hunger crisis in 2013, after failed harvests in the US and Ukraine. Food prices surged last summer, with cereal prices hitting a record high in September.
Christine Haigh of the WDM said: “While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food. Financial speculation is fueling food price spikes and Goldman Sachs is the No 1 culprit.”
Goldman makes its “food speculation” revenues by setting up and managing commodity funds that invest money from pension funds, insurance companies and wealthy individuals in return for fees and commissions. The firm invented these kinds of funds and continues to dominate the market, together with Barclays and Morgan Stanley. Swiss trading giant Glencore hit the headlines in August when its head of agriculture proclaimed that the US drought will be “good for Glencore”.
Banks and hedge funds typically argue that speculation makes little or no difference to food prices and point out that no definitive link has been proved. But there is a growing consensus that the influx of cash into food has increased demand so much that it has inevitably pushed up the prices.
Since deregulation allowed the creation of the commodity funds that allowed many speculators to invest in agriculture for the first time, institutions such as Goldman have channelled more than $200bn of cash into the area. This investment has coincided with a significant and sustained rise in global food prices.
After struggling with her own food challenges, artist Lee Price began painting a deeply personal series of self-portraits. Her hyperrealistic paintings, depicting stolen moments of binge eating, convey the difficult relationship many people experience while seeking solace through food.
The late Vincent Price was a horror film icon. With perfect elocution, he delivered creepy invitations to haunted houses in such movies as House of Wax (1953) and House on Haunted Hill (1959). He was a regular on TV’s Hollywood Squares and a villain on the 1960s TV series Batman. Price’s deep voice narrated Michael Jackson’s 1982 music video for “Thriller” and was an inspiration to director Tim Burton. But Price was also a foodie.
Price and his second wife, Mary, were such food connoisseurs that in 1965, they wrote a best-selling cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes. It’s been out of print until now. Victoria helped get the book reissued for its 50th anniversary, with a preface by chef Wolfgang Puck.
It is predicted that, in 30 years, there will be a 40 percent decrease in avocados due to rising temperatures in California. New varieties of heat-tolerant lettuce will be needed. Some tomatoes grown in the northeastern U.S. already need to be grown under plastic, as cooler and wetter springs increase the odds of late blight, a devastating disease that can wipe out a crop in a few days. More frequent heavy rains can wash away crop nutrients and seed, and make work in the field impossible at times.
Said by Michael Hoffmann
Some people think we are utopian and overly ambitious in pushing the world to implement hydroponics, vertical farming, and controlled environment agriculture. What most of the detractors don’t realize is that we must develop more decentralized, local, and a water-saving techniques. Mitigating climate change may be futile and adaptation is what agritecture is invested in.
”Can food prices cause social unrest? Throughout history, riots have often broken out in areas with high concentration of poor households, ostensibly as a consequence of high food prices. Since the turn of the millennium, the world has experienced two major food crises, which were both associated with food riots.”
If you’ve shopped for meat recently, you no doubt have noticed that beef prices are up. Some grades are even at the highest levels ever recorded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though the inflated prices may be hard on consumers, they’re helping Texas cattle ranchers recover from a fierce drought.
On a sprawling ranch called 44 Farms in Cameron, Texas, about two hours’ drive northwest of Houston, cattlemen raise Black Angus, the most common breed of beef cattle in the U.S. The ranch recently held its fall auction, but none of the animals were headed for the dinner table anytime soon. Instead, they will be giving birth to a new generation of cattle.