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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)

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