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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Food speculation and food prices - food for thought

The German left-leaning daily Süddeutsche Zeitung has first called attention to the research of Ingo Pies which called into question the statement of a report from Foodwatch and other reports of Oxfam and the Welthungerhilfe , renowned non-profit organisations, that speculation (forward index deals on food prices) has contributed to the recent steep increase in food prices. (Deutsche Bank has published an English version of the article.) Mr Pies deals with ethics of the economy and is rather sympathetic to ONGs, he himself founded one as a student. The main point of his argument is to list the real reasons for food price increase, but he also shows that prices of other raw materials also subject to forward index deals have not risen. The reaction of the two organisations is at least disappointing: Oxfam just states that they did not demand the total ban on these deals just their regulation. Andreas Winkler, responsible for public relations in Foodwatch reacts in a comment saying also that they did not ask for total ban, but also implying that only hedging is a justified reason (he writes that they are a certain degree of speculation is useful for farmers, dealers and processors) and finally stating that if speculation did not increase prices, it has increased their swings. He also points out that their study was dealing with all counter-arguments. The counter-arguments of Jens Berger , that the speculators are always the counterparty of the farmers and that they are always winning and thus always interested on price rises, is just showing that he does not really understand how markets and forward deals in particular work. It has to be noted that before there was an exchange between Foodwatch and Deutsche Bank where the bank’s reaction was rather muted and not too convincing. As a result, Commerzbank stopped dealing in food speculation . Further information can be found on the following site (in German)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

State of the Union and the f-word

Blogactive analysed the reactions to the State of the union address of president Barroso and fond surprisingly small activity in Eastern Europe. The map also shows that there was none in Hungary. The Hungarian press was also not very active, and in my opinion misunderstood a little the message or at least what is behind it. "Barroso uttered the F-word" was the main message - as it was also tweeted by Dave Keating , a journalist in the Economist group who writes fairly regularly for European Voice . The Hungarian press mostly reacted as if they had hear the first time a call for closer co.operation in Europe and thus as if this were really a call for this which partly it was. But in a well-tempered way and it was less in depth than what the Germans talked about for the last some months. Eurosceptics used to talk about federation instead of a superstate - and the president said: " Not a superstate. A democratic federation of nation states..." So, is it a step backward? In some respect, yes. But reading the text, however, it called for a broader co-operation and also announced some concrete steps. It was no doubt provocative, whichever way we look at it: The parliament Magazine and also other sources familiar with EU matters also mentioned the mixed reaction in the European Parliament where the MEPs took the F-word as a retreat. Verhofstadt even said that we have the federation of states in Europe. Barroso's answer where he refused to engage in discussion about wording, shows that the issue is sensitive It is remarkable, however, that while trying to appease the present institutions ("We do not need to separate institutions or to create new institutions for that. Quite the contrary: for this to be effective and quick, the best way is to work with and through the existing institutions: The European Commission as the independent European authority, and overseen by the European Parliament as the parliamentary representation at the European level.") and argued for the community method to be applied (unlike in the case of the fiscal discipline accord). But he made an acidic remark: "If it was left to the Member States, I can tell you they will not resist pressure from big corporations or large external powers." Another important point: he emphasised several times the social dimension. What was new and breaking a taboo: he called for a treaty change, well prepared by public debate. This is a courageous undertaking: - let's see what future holds.