Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor
QUESTION: Will Rising Prices Spark a Food Crisis in Latin America? Which Latin American countries are most at risk of a hunger crisis and possible social unrest? What steps should governments, businesses and NGOs take to mitigate rising food costs?
Peter Rosset, researcher at Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM) and technical support staff member at La Via Campesina:
Conasupo, the former semi-public food marketing agency that guaranteed minimally fair prices to farmers and consumers, and the opening of the Mexican border to low-cost dumped imports through NAFTA, set the stage for a small number of transnational companies to seize near monopoly control over the domestic market for basic foodstuffs like maize. In recent days, the press has reported that these companies, especially U.S.-owned Cargill, bought the recent maize harvest at 2,500 pesos per metric ton and hoard- ed it to provoke a price increase.
They are now turning around and selling it for more than double that price, making windfall profits at the expense of poor and hungry consumers."What we see in Mexico mirrors the growing financial speculation in food commodities that is now driving price swings."