THE United Nations is warning of disturbances and revolutions in developing countries worldwide as its food price index hits an all-time high.
The UN’s food price index ‘basket’ comprises the costs of five essential foods – meat, sugar, wheat, corn and dairy produce.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says that global prices have risen for the last six months, with wheat prices doubling, sugar at an all-time high and pork up by 25 per cent. Further huge increases are expected in the coming months.
Financial speculators are playing a big part in the dramatic soaring of staple prices as ‘investors’ turn from buying dodgy debt to purchasing food supplies and future crops, a sure thing for making super profits out of starving people.
Pushing up food prices as well are the huge inflation of oil prices, as well as the vast tracts of land that are being taken out of food production in order to produce bio-fuels.
This goes hand in hand with the huge cotton price rise, currently pushing up clothes prices everywhere.
North Africa has already gone up in flames because of the price rises as well as rapidly rising unemployment.
The Algerian government has been forced to pledge that it will cut taxes and import duties on some staple foods, after a series of deadly clashes between workers and the police and army killed at least three people.
A meeting of ministers in the capital Algiers agreed on Saturday to measures which would reduce the price of sugar and cooking oil by 41 per cent if carried out.
Mohamed Zitout, a former Algerian diplomat, said yesterday, ‘It is a revolt, and probably a revolution, of an oppressed people who have, for 50 years, been waiting for housing, employment, and a proper and decent life in a very rich country.
‘But unfortunately it is ruled by a very rich elite that does not care about what is happening in the country – because they did not give people what they want, even though the government has the means to do so, the people are now revolting.’
In Tunisia, an uprising is also taking place.
Witnesses said police fired their weapons after using water cannons to try to disperse crowds which had set light to government buildings. The crowds threw stones and petrol bombs back at the police.
Last week in Bolivia, President Morales was forced to withdraw a measure to increase fuel prices after trade unions took general strike action.
However, it is a fallacy to consider that the price explosion is limited to what was called the developing world.
In the UK, the jump in November food prices was recorded as the highest since 1976, with retailers and food manufacturers warning of further increases, especially in wheat. There was a similar leap in the cost of clothing, while petrol prices are rising on a daily basis.
This comes on top of above-inflation increases in bus and rail fares, and gas and electricity costs, at a time when workers are having open wage cuts imposed on them as well as wage freezes.
Everybody knows that the rise in the real cost of living index, making up the basic necessities that workers must have to be able to put food on the table, is many times bigger than the official inflation rate.
It is time that the trade unions drew up their own cost of living index and insisted on wage rises that match the real index. Families must not go hungry because speculators have bought up food supplies.
The fact that the Tory-led coalition will not budge from its policies makes it all the more certain that there will be an explosion of working class anger that will make the uprisings in Algeria and Tunisia seem like child’s play.
In fact, the trade unions must act now and call a general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers’ government.
This will be a giant step forward towards the victory of the world socialist revolution.
Putting capitalism and imperialism out of business on a world scale is the only way to assure food supplies for the workers of the world at prices that they are able to pay.