Improve food prices or face wars: Nestle boss

Nestle boss Peter Brabeck-Letmathe says the world may be in for hunger riots similar to those in 2008 due to the increase in food prices.

"The situation is similar (to 2008),” the chairman of the world’s largest food company told Salzburger Nachrichten daily.

“This has become the new reality.

"We have reached a level of food prices that is substantially higher than before.

“It will likely settle down at this level.

"If you live in a developing country and spend 80 percent of your income on food then of course you are going to feel it more than here (in Europe) where it is maybe eight percent."

The incidents he is referring to in 2008 include the historic rise in the price of cereals which let to riots in Haiti, the Philippines and some African countries.

It’s widely believed high food prices are partly to blame for the recent unrest in Africa and the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd made similar claims to Brabeck-Letmathe late last month, and has called on Western countries to ensure food security or face political uproar and possible wars.

Rudd said global food production would need to increase by 70 per cent by 2050 to feed an expected population of 9.3 billion, and this will require greater productivity.

"A food-secure world requires that those currently living in rural poverty become able to produce agricultural surpluses, allowing them to sell the excess for income, to invest in better agricultural practices and to insure against the bad seasons that from time to time will inevitably come,” he told a conference of agricultural scientists in Brisbane on 29 September.

"Failing to address the challenge of food insecurity will also have political, social and broader social security repercussions," he said.

Rudd pointed out that the revolutions in the Middle East this year began with protests about the cost of bread.

"If, as a global community, we fail, the consequences for all our peoples of a starving planet are potentially catastrophic — political conflict, war, large numbers of internally displaced persons affecting all our countries."

The UN food agency’s price index was higher in September, up to 225 points, which is just lower that in June 2008.

The increase in prices is attributed to the high export cost, climate change, population increases and changing eating habits.

A report in the AFP showed the increase in Western food consumption has led to a massive rise in the number of middle and upper class people who are overweight or obese.

"Obesity is emerging in India which has serious implications for metabolic health in the future," researcher Seema Gulati told AFP.

"Schoolchildren are attracted to the way it (junk food) is advertised," she said. "They feel it is something that is high status. They want to try it out."

The increase in meat consumption in countries like China and India is also to blame, as it the amount of water being used in the modern world.

Brabeck-Letmathe said people are "using more water than is sustainable" and he wants a change to the price of water to encourage companies and consumers to reduce waste.

Image: The Guardian

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