The Food Crisis is Off!

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October 7, 2008

"There is enough food in the world – the real debate should be about the global division of foods and welfare" said the main speaker, senior researcher Mr Henning Otto Hansen, at the opening day of the international congress in Copenhagen, hosted by Grønttorvet København, with 30 nations within WUWM (the World Union of Wholesale Markets) attending. The Danish EU agricultural commissioner, Mrs Marianne Fisher Boel, addressed in her opening speech, via a video link, the 150 participants from 30 different nations directly. She pointed out the significant responsibility that the European food markets have when it comes to ensuring European consumers eat more fruit and vegetables, thereby improving the national health. "Children and youngsters in the European countries eat far too few fruit and vegetables. The EU and the individual governments have a direct responsibility to provide these children and youngsters with healthy eating habits, which in turn will secure them a healthy life. That is why we now launch the European School Food Programme, where fruit and vegetables play an important role. It is my hope that all the European governments will back this initiative and make sure that the children and youngsters receive healthier food in their schools" said Mrs Fischer Boel in her address to the congress participants. The main speaker of the congress on the opening day, Mr Henning Otto Hansen, senior advisor at Copenhagen Business School and an international expert on global production of food, put emphasis on the reasons for and the patterns in the international food crisis, which the world has experienced the last couple of years, and which has taken a lot of media attention. His conclusion was sharp: "The food crisis is off! Globally, the supply of foods is rising again, and we are now seeing the first signs of a drop in the prices. The farms are cultivating larger acres of land, they are using more fertilizers, and the yields are growing. Globally, we now have the capacity to produce foods for about 12 billion people. This means that the global food crisis will only last one or two more years" said Otte Hansen. However, he stressed what the real food problem in the world is about: "food crisis is a problem, particularly in the under developed countries. There is enough food, but the price level touch upon the welfare and division problem, which is a very central point in the discussion." Another central point in Mr Henning Otte Hansen’s speech was the strong globalisation, also within production and trade of foods. He does not think that either the food nor the energy crisis will stop the globalisation: The trade across borders will grow, we will experience more mergers across border, and more international investments will be made as well as more outsourcing of food production will take place. "Particularly in the western countries, we will become increasingly more dependant of foreign foods. We will become increasingly more global consumers, who demands global products" he said. A large part of the cut flowers, of which the majority is sold in rich, western European countries, has moved to Africa where the wages are low and the climate is excellent for growing flowers. Countries such as Kenya, Zambia and Uganda are today home to large production of cut flowers – a production which used to be in Denmark and Holland. It is particularly Dutch capital backing the production in Africa where cut flowers are returned by airplane from Africa to Europe. As soon as the flowers are ready for sale they are distributed to the European market though Holland. "This development is a clear result of globalisation, and an appropriate question one could ask is if this flight traffic is an expression of sustainability and environmental consciousness, seen from a CO2 balance point of view". Later in the day, four international experts from Belgium, Holland, the USA and China presented statements on trends and opportunities in world trade of fruit and vegetables, rhe international retail sector, the global trade of fish and shell fish and the global trade of flowers and plants.