SV: SV: [OPE] The genocidal implications of biofuels

From: Martin Kragh (
Date: Mon Jul 07 2008 - 10:28:36 EDT

Jerry and Dave,

I believe one needs to analyze the situation in somewhat greater detail than in sweeping generalizations about "the majority of food" from "poor countries". There are various forms of producers and countries. 

On the macro level first. Biofuels to my knowledge consume only a small share of the food production in the world (estimated 2-3 %). The rising food prices are more likely the result of two other factors. Pro primo, the economic growth of China and India, the fact that people eat more meat etcetera. Pro secundo, the rising prices of energy. The labour and land costs have not risen dramatically, but price of energy has, and oil is consumed in the production of fertilizers which is used on the land. Price increases of food thus also reflect the compensation to producers who would otherwise let parts of their land lay idle, rather than cultivated. 

Two understand how income is distributed in the Third World, one needs to look secondly at the micro level, and relate this to whether or not the country in question is a net exporter or importer. The Latin American situation of net exporters with few hands controlling large land areals as in Brazil, will have the effect of macro growth, but rizing inequality. This can only be compensated for by taxation, redistribution and targeted political programs. Thailand is another net exporter of food, but with a much more refined distribution of land ownership. There producers will take their produce to the market at a higher price. The Thai farmers (majority of the population) should, under such circumstances, benefit. A third case is the scenario where you have highly unequal distribution of land and the country is a net importer, as the Philipines. There everyone will loose, and no political fix can safeguard the growing poverty. Obviously, in all three abovementioned cases, urban inhabitants loose relatively, as do all people in the most developed parts of the world.    

I understand that the above argument in the absence of data is somewhat stylized, but it would have been interesting to see someone address the topic from this more compound perspective. The biofuels debate does have a "white middleclass man" feel to it. 

Kind regards

-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: [] För Dave Zachariah
Skickat: den 6 juli 2008 17:42
Till: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Ämne: Re: SV: [OPE] The genocidal implications of biofuels

on 2008-07-06 16:21 Martin Kragh wrote:
> Just a note on the food debate. If the majority of the populations in 
> the so called Third World are producers of food, shouldn't they 
> benefit from rising prices? I have not seen any discussion of this in 
> the media, which more often focus on urban regional problems than 
> rural areas (even though this is where the majority of people live).

My guess is that the majority of food exported from the poor countries is not produced by the rural peasantry engaged in small-scale agriculture, but rather capitalist firms. In that case, rising food prices will just be a reduction of their real incomes.

If you take a massive country like India, there are very few that benefit from the food price inflation.

//Dave Z
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