By: George Kurzom
Arab food poverty
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
In recent months, some Western countries and international institutions have escalated their warning of a global starvation due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, due to the "cutting of supplies from the ports of Ukraine”. Before the war, the latter had exported huge quantities of grain, wheat, corn and vegetable oils.
After the war, Ukrainian exports collapsed, which led to a significant rise in prices.
Russian and Ukrainian production of wheat is estimated to be 30% of the world's wheat supply. Before the war, Ukraine exported about 4.5 million tons of agricultural products a month.
The valid questions here are: “What is meant by food security? Did the Russian-Ukrainian war really cause the so-called global “food insecurity” and starvation? What is the reality of starvation in the world and what are the root causes?
It must be noted that the concept of food security was invented by the imperialist regimes and international financial and economic organizations (the United States of America, the European Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, some United Nations agencies...etc.), and then was adopted by the political regimes in the southern part of the globe, who are dependent to the colonial West; that is a "neoliberal" top-bottom approach.
The concept of “food security” assumes that people have the ability to meet their food needs, through local production or import.
According to the imperialism, food security depends on the import, and thus the dependence of the poor people on food imported from the imperialist states and their monopolies that control the production of grains and essential foods globally.
That is, in order for people to have food sufficiency, they must have money to meet their needs. Which means that those who are unemployed and are suffering from extreme poverty can die of starvation with no mercy.
The concept of "food security" in conclusion aims to perpetuate social injustice and oppression and inequality. Rather, it legitimizes poverty, hunger, and the global plundering that reinforces the gaps between the wealthy who are drowning in their luxuries and the majority that starve to death, without even being buried.
In contrast, the concept of national food sovereignty is fully consistent with the concept of a self-reliant, resistant economy, which contradicts the official economic concepts and policies based mainly on the two capitalist bases of "market economy" and "free market", which caused the consolidation and deepening of Poverty, starvation, tribal and local wars in the states of the South with nominal “sovereignty”.
The concept of food sovereignty arose initially in some countries of Latin America and East Asia, as an antithesis to food security, and developed in the context of the revolutionary popular agricultural movements that liberated agricultural land areas from the tyranny political regimes and major food and agricultural industrial companies, and rebelled against the policies of their governments which support the rich groups and defend the interests of capitalists, big business owners, real estate and land dealers, monopolistic and transnational corporations.
In the sense that the concept of food sovereignty is a popular, liberating, resistance concept that aims to achieve real sovereignty over land and food production, especially the sovereignty of oppressed peoples and popular strata who are under the control and mercy of a handful of foreign transcontinental monopolies, and global agro- chemicals’ and seed companies, in addition to peoples under occupation, like the Palestinian people.
The “Third World”: Starvation or food poverty
The Corona pandemic in particular revealed the severity of social and class oppression, and the inequality in the globe. It also revealed the falsehood and the lie of “food security” that imperialist regimes, institutions and monopolies in the northern countries had been marketing to poor communities in the southern countries, after they were nicely put in intellectual-development words such as “sustainable development” under which all forms of looting financial resources, profits and surpluses (from the south) are performed.
In the end, the countries of the “south” (and of course the Arabs as well) abandoned their national markets, and opened them completely to western capitalism represented by its giant companies which abuse the national markets, and destroy the local production and environmental infrastructure, under the term of “the united global market” which constitutes the natural and vital field for the movement of western capital who rules the global market.
And here lies the reason behind the call of “international” financial and economic institutions (especially the “World Trade Organization”) for a completely uneven “liberalization” of trade in the countries of the “southern” whose governments, in accordance with the requirements of “liberation,” must lift protection against local producers, and privatize public sector assets and projects, including allowing foreign and “multinational” companies to buy these assets and sectors, as well as granting absolute freedom of capital movement, and thus the freedom to divert domestic funds and surpluses abroad, specifically to the “Northern” countries.
The result was destroying the traditional productive economic structures that existed before the direct colonial presence in these countries, and depended on local resources and market, such as agriculture in the first place, and thus the west ruined the foundations of the economic self-reliance of most of the “Third World” countries, and thus ensured their consumer and food dependence on the west. As a result, it even stripped them of the illusion of their "food security" and destroyed their rich environment and threw them into the quagmire of starvation.
With the Corona pandemic, poverty and starvation deepened in the countries of the South in particular, but also in the western industrial countries where the capitalist class determined who gets food and who does not get it.Class divisions have increased on a global scale, with the rich enjoying their inflated fictitious fortunes, while hundreds of millions of workers are unemployed, without the minimum amount of money to feed their families.
The hunger crisis during the year 2020 is unprecedented, as experts estimated the number of global deaths due to hunger, until the end of that year, at more than 132 million people, three times the annual increase since the beginning of the twenty-first century (Bloomberg Agency). That is, the daily number of deaths globally, due to starvation resulting from the consequences of the pandemic, is more than the number of deaths due to infection with the virus.
It is remarkable that hunger is crushing people, at a time when food surpluses in the world are increasing in large quantities. Those surpluses that, according to the concept of "food security", are supposed to be distributed to the hungry and thus eliminating the hunger.
Despite the declaration of the "FAO" organization that recent years have witnessed a significant increase in global production of strategic crops, the global supply of crops has decreased and prices have risen by tens of percent.
This indicates that the periodic global wheat crises are nothing but fabricated crises by which their main cause lies in the competition for the world wheat market between America (the largest global exporter of wheat) and Europe, thus manipulating the surplus wheat supplied globally and controlling the “Third World” food.
So, exaggerating the issue of "food insecurity" and starvation due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, is in fact the "big coutries game", its goal is to raise the prices of grain and basic foods.
The price of a ton of wheat for example is supposed to not exceed $300, while its price in late May reached more than $450.
Also, the surplus of grain and wheat in Ukraine (since before the war) was drained in exchange for arms purchases from NATO countries (during the current war), and this could create food crisis and possibly worsen (existing) starvation in some poor countries.
The massive food surpluses wastage, especially in the capitalist west, means the disposal of food production in landfills. These surpluses are enough to feed hundreds of millions of people in poor countries.
During the last decades, western countries and their international financial institutions, have imposed and are still imposing on the “Third World” the cultivation of luxury crops for export to Europe, America and Japan, while the majority of the people of the “Third World” lack the basic food crops they need.
This Western economic orientation imposed on the “Third World” indicates that monoculture directed at the so-called global market has brought these peoples to the point of inability to produce and secure basic food for themselves, so they have no choice but to face their inevitable fate: starvation or food poverty (the true meaning of "food security").
It has been proven that the main cause of the food crisis is not the lack of food, but rather the inability of the poor to bear the significant rise in prices resulting from the high prices of energy and inputs (such as fertilizers) and the consequent increase in debts in particular, and the debts of small farmers and low-income countries in general, which led to continuous migrations of millions of the rural poor and small landlords towards urban slums and precarious work in the informal economy.
Official international figures from (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations "FAO", the International Fund for Agricultural Development “IFAD” and the World Food Program “WFP”) prove that despite the “development” in the field of chemical agricultural technology and genetically modified crops, under the pretext of eliminating hunger, the number of hungry people in the world has increased a lot .The goal of ending starvation by 2030, set by the United Nations in 2015, is still out of reach.
In 2014, the number of hungry people in the world reached about 630 million, in 2019 it rose to about 700 million, and in 2020 the number of hungry people exceeded 800 million, or more than 11% of the world's population. Currently, the number of hungry people is around one billion.
So, the problem does not lie in the inadequacy of global food production, because the world produces huge quantities of food more than we need, but the problem lies in that the hungry and poor of the "Third World" do not have the money to buy or grow their need for food, meaning that agricultural quantities are absolutely not the solution to the problem.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh