Saturday, June 07, 2008

Zuma Says Poor May Revolt Over High Food Prices

Zuma: Poor May Revolt Over High Food Prices--South Africa

By Chris Van Gass
Jun 6, 2008, 11:17

CAPETOWN - African National Congress president Jacob Zuma yesterday warned that the rising cost of food was a "time bomb" and if the poor were cut out of buying food it could lead to an uprising.

Zuma's tough talk came during a plenary session of the World Economic Forum to discuss the topic, Food Insecurity: A Perfect Storm.

Zuma said there was a debate on food prices among trade unions and political organisations, which were planning protest marches.

"The issue of food prices is a time bomb. With those who have budgets to adjust, it is one thing. With those who have no money to buy, once food prices go up they are cut out, even from the possibility of buying food, then they're sitting with a situation" that could cause an uprising , Zuma said.

"Those who are poor don't have the possibility of sitting like this and rationalising what's happened."

Zuma agreed with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel that the real problem behind the rapid increase in food prices in the past year was the high oil price.

Manuel said what was not spoken about was one of the causes that lay upstream from agriculture: the oil price, which now stood at $134 a barrel.

He said the oil price was pushing up the cost of food "in a way we can't deal with ".

Manuel said about 34% of the price of bread in SA was due to the rising cost of wheat, while the logistics chain accounted for 36% of the price.

Manuel called for "a set of co-ordinated multinational responses" and said the government needed to look beyond "merely the supply issue".

"We have to also move upstream and deal with the input costs. If we don't change that, prices are going to continue to rise."

Manuel said, however, that the government should not be "dragooned" into taking short-term decisions.

He said the food import bill of the world stood at $1-trillion, which was $250bn higher than last year.

What was needed was a multilateral response that did not allow countries to "get out of agreements".

Manuel said the World Trade Organisation's (WTO's) foot-dragging about the agriculture round of trade talks "speaks to the failure over long periods to actually deal with the issues that stare us all in the face".

However, the WTO could not now relent on agricultural subsidies "in the immediate term" as this would have an even worse effect on poor people in the developing world.

Manuel said while the supply issue had to be on the agenda to support poor families, he was not talking about the demand side.

In the US, each individual consumed the annual equivalent of 40kg of chicken. "In 1980 (it) was 20kg a year." That kind of demand was unsustainable, Manuel said.

National Environment Month

Recycle, reduce and re-use

International conservation experts found that the global community dumps over 50 million tonnes of unused food in landfills each year. This appalling statistic of disposed food is caused by over-shopping. Consumers are purchasing more food and goods than they need and this causes over-production at a colossal hidden cost to the environment.

Every year, the world population throws away 700 million slices of bread and other huge quantities of bakery goods, meat and fish, ready-made mixed food and unopened dairy products. This translates to households disposing of one in every three shopping bags straight into the bin.

Dumped food in landfills breaks down, emitting methane gas which directly fuels climate change. This irresponsible attitude reverses the gains we are making in our efforts of averting climate change.

Consumers should exercise sensitivity to the environment by embracing environmental friendly measures such as reducing the current high demand of goods, purchasing quantities of goods they really need and not to throw away leftovers.

Observing these measures will lead to reduction in food production, use of less energy at processing plants and a substantial cut in transportation energy and lesser environmental resources will be needed for storage rooms. This will firmly put us on the road towards a low carbon economy and accelerate our pace to the desired destination.

Agriculture and environment

Agriculture has been shown to produce significant effects on climate change, primarily through the production and release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The agricultural sector also alters land cover, which can change its ability to absorb or reflect heat and light.

Land use change such as deforestation and desertification, together with use of fossil fuels, is a major source of carbon dioxide and methane. This also worsens poverty in rural communities which derive their livelihood from the environment and subsistence farming.

Pesticides washed down stream and ultimately to the sea pose a serious threat to terrestrial animals drinking contaminated water and to the general aquatic life. Farmers are urged not to destroy our biodiversity while chasing short-term profits. Farmers should invest in safe technologies to protect the environment.

Studies suggest that, due to climate change Southern Africa could lose more than 30% of its main crop, maize, by 2030. The 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report concluded that the poorest countries would be hardest hit, with reductions in crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions due to decreased water availability, and new or changed insect pest incidence.

Levels of greenhouse gases have increased by a substantial percentage since large-scale industrialisation began around 150 years ago, with about three-quarters of human-made carbon dioxide emissions coming from burning fossil fuels. The imbalance between emissions and absorption results in the continuing growth in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gas emissions come mostly from energy use and they are driven largely by economic growth and fuel used for electricity generation. Another greenhouse gas, methane, comes from landfills, coal mines, oil and gas operations, and agriculture. It represents 9% of total emissions.

By 2030, the world's energy needs are expected to be 50% greater than today. At the same time, scientists are calling for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to avoid serious changes in the earth's climate system. Reconciling these demands while simultaneously adapting to the impacts of climate change is one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century.

South Africa's environmental enforcement officers, also known as the Green Scorpions, are busy monitoring industrial emissions levels to ensure permitted emissions standards are adhered to.

Waste and recycling

Growing populations and high consumption demand mean that larger quantities of waste will be generated on a daily basis and this will require proper waste management. Waste recycling is one way to reduce waste in landfills. Through recycling, we can reprocess material back to its original useful format. For example, glass bottles are crushed, melted and remoulded into new bottles.

More broadly, recycling refers to any waste that is recovered and returned or reprocessed to a further useful purpose. For example, many groceries bags are sold to consumers for repeated use. This cuts down production of grocery plastics and lifts the strain on the environment.

A successful recycling operation requires good clean uniform collection of single waste types. This is most effectively achieved by separating the waste streams close to source, for example, on the factory floor, rather than at the landfill site. The financial incentives for waste recycling are perceived as relatively small to the waste producer.

However, we have seen that introducing waste recycling programmes significantly reduces the overall cost of the waste management service. Our waste recycling operations create jobs and skills training for site supervisors. Additionally, work and income is created for entrepreneurs that trade in recyclables.

However, the primary motivation for recycling still needs to be that it is the right thing to do, for our environment, for our children and their children. Many resources are scarce or difficult to renew, for example trees for paper pulp. Recycling is a responsible stewardship approach to resources and to the environment.

We have developed a national clean-up programme to keep our residential areas, towns and cities, graveyards and other public institutions clean in line with our constitutional obligation to create healthy and safe environments.


We are part of the natural world and depend on nature for our survival. The air we breathe, the water we drink and many other life-sustaining processes come from nature. Pollution of our environment affects us directly.

Protecting and keeping variety in the natural world is important. Our parks are an effective means to protect tropical biodiversity. Records show that the majority of parks are successful at stopping land clearing, and to a lesser degree effective at mitigating hunting, fire and grazing.

Ecological health depends on maintaining a diversity of life forms. Healthy, intact ecosystems also build soil, prevent erosion, store and cycle nutrients, and provide economic benefits through such valuable products as wood fibre, foodstuffs and oils.

The national park system houses a rich diversity of species and ecosystems that can be of great value to society. Parks may even serve as reservoirs of plants and animals that can repopulate plants and species.

If we are to achieve success, women and youth formations, who use nature on a daily basis, should be actively involved in planning, implementation and monitoring of environmental protection programmes. It has been demonstrated that they love their country and are eager to make a contribution to society through volunteer work.

We must make cleaning our surroundings and the country part of our daily routine for the health of our citizens and the environment.

** Rejoice Mabudafhasi is a member of the ANC National Executive Committee and Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. This is an extract from a speech at the launch of National Environment Month, 2 June 2008.

No comments: