The rich world's response to the global food crisis has been inadequate and at times hypocritical, said Oxfam on the eve of the G8 summit and ahead of a critical vote in Europe on biofuels. New research suggesting that the rush for biofuels has pushed food prices up by 75%, adds to already strong evidence that biofuels are doing more harm than good. Also due today is the delayed Gallagher enquiry into the impact of biofuels. Oxfam is urging the UK government to scrap its target for biofuels and MEPs to reject the proposed EU target of 10% of energy from biofuels by 2020.
The World Bank estimates that increases in prices of wheat, rice and maize cost developing countries $324bn last year alone - the equivalent of three years global aid spending. Food inflation has wiped out 10% of the GDP of Senegal, Haiti and Sierra Leone, and around 5% of GDP in Vanuatu, Mozambique and Eritrea, according to latest World Bank analysis. "Food inflation might cause pain in rich countries - but it is shattering entire economies and people's lives in developing countries," said Oxfam’s Phil Bloomer. "At the G8 this week world leaders need to do much more to show they are ready to tackle this food crisis in the long term. They must reiterate their promises to increase aid - needed now more than ever - and make the necessary reforms including increasing investment in agriculture in poor countries, targeting women and small farmers."
Also, the European Commission are proposing to offer €1bn of unspent agriculture funds to help farmers from poorest countries boost their food production. Oxfam welcomed the urgently needed money, but said the Commission needed to go further and seize the opportunity to reform. "Rich countries' farm subsidies have systematically undermined production in poor countries. While prices are high they should take the chance to end the unfair subsidies once and for all. Aid should not distract from the urgent need for fundamental root and branch reform in the EU and US," said Bloomer.
The World Trade Organization is due to meet later this month but Oxfam challenged the assertion that the proposed global free trade deal would alleviate the situation and said that rapid liberalisation, without sufficient flexibility for poor countries, would further expose developing countries to shocks.
Concerning aid to Africa, G8 negotiators remain deadlocked and were expected to continue discussions late into Monday night, sources have told international agency Oxfam. The text of the development communiqué still lacks a reiteration of the key promises made in Gleneagles to give $50bn extra in aid by 2010 and for half of this, $25bn, to go for Africa. Some negotiators also continue trying to back away from the 2007 commitment on extra aid for health. “We must see the $50bn aid promise back in the communiqué”, said Max Lawson of Oxfam International. “With entire communities reeling from the rapid increase in food prices, aid must go up, not down. These late night negotiations will be a test of Japanese leadership and G8 resolve.”