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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman has called for improved co-ordination of food and farming
research. As the chairman of a cross-party agricultural parliamentary group, he highlighted the
potential of East Anglia͛s research and life sciences sectors while visiting the National Institute of
Agricultural Botany at Cambridge.

Mr Freeman, chairman of the parliamentary group on science and technology in agriculture, was
keen to encourage even more collaboration between public and private sector.

He said that a dedicated food and farming technology and innovation centre could provide the
leadership and co-ordination needed to take new scientific discoveries through to practical

Mr Freeman was told by senior NIAB staff about research in the pipeline to improve yield, climate
resilience and resource use efficiency of major crops.

He visited the glasshouse complex, growth room facilities and plant genetics laboratory, which had
carried out in the past five years to strengthen core activities in plant variety and seed testing, and to
extend crop science capabilities.

͞Producing more agricultural outputs with fewer inputs is one of the biggest challenges facing us in
the 21st century and, through world-leading independent crop research centres such as NIAB,
Britain is well-placed to play a key role in addressing that challenge.

͞However, it is clear that much of the research taking place in the UK͛s life sciences sector requires
closer co-ordination to ensure our rapidly advancing knowledge-base is translated into useful
products and practices on the ground.

͞I am encouraging those in the industry and research community to explore setting up a specific
technology and innovation centre for the food and agricultural sciences in the UK to bring together
our leading scientists in collaboration,͟ said Mr Freeman.

This article, from EDP24͛s business section, focuses on the campaign of a Norfolk MP to encourage
advances in agricultural science via a more healthy collaboration between the private and public
sectors. The article, and the MP͛s views, mirrors the report in the belief that such a collaboration
could lead to improved crop yield and climate resilience. He also goes on to say that there must be
closer coordination in the future to ensure knowledge is transferred, again much like the main

Posted by Deborah Doane - 11 January 2011 11:54



While inertia continues to define the coalition government's approach to banking regulation, the
bankers are happily enjoying yet another free-for-all spending splurge ʹ and fears are emerging of a
new bubble. This time, it's a commodity bubble, similar to the one that led to food riots around the
world in 2007 and 2008.

In case you hadn't noticed, food prices are at an all-time high: the latest figures show food price
inflation at 5.5 per cent, outpacing the overall inflation figure of 3.3 per cent. You'll be paying as
much as 25 per cent more for your regular cuppa as tea prices rise; and we already saw the cost of
our Christmas turkey go up by more than £3 before Christmas, due to the doubling in feed costs in

The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Food Price Index, released last week, shows that a range of
basic food prices are actually higher than they were when food riots broke out in places like
Mozambique, Egypt and Haiti just two years ago. In the first week of December, the benchmarked
US wheat price reached $327 per tonne, which is a staggering 70 per cent higher than that for July
2010, just six months earlier.

Some market analysts would have us believe that it's a simple case of time-honoured supply and
demand. But aren't these the same analysts who also said that mortgage derivatives were a good
bet for investors? Market fetishists often fail to ignore the evidence as it suits them.

Although the long-term trends do point to a gradual rise in prices, due to a range of reasons from
climate change and biofuel production to increasing consumption, basic supply and demand alone
doesn't account for the high price volatility and huge changes being seen in recent months.

Price spikes of upwards of 70 per cent are being led by hedge funds, investment bankers and
pension funds that have poured over $200bn into food markets since the financial crisis, betting on
prices going ever higher. With few options to place your bets these days, and especially with the
ready-made cash available through quantitative easing, food isn't a bad place to start ʹ for the
bankers, anyway.

A few extra pence for a loaf of bread doesn't seem like a lot to most of us, but the story is rather
different if you're in a developing country, relying on imported staple foods just to get by.

Meanwhile, the replay of food riots began last week, with three people killed and 300 injured in
disturbances that broke out in Algeria. For some of the poorest people in the world, as prices rise,
education falls by the wayside; basic assets such as farm animals get sold, and a short-term crisis can
lead to long-term chronic malnourishment for a generation.

Food isn't an asset like any other ʹ it's fundamental to human life. Commodity markets exist to
enable people to buy and sell food, but are now the best place for speculators to make a quick buck
through murky "over-the-counter" trades and a self-fulfilling prophecy of ever-rising prices.
The story of food prices is as much a part of the picture of what's wrong with our financial sector as
the Greek and Irish debt crises, or the obscene level of bankers' bonuses. The reality is that the same
speculators who caused the global economic meltdown through their illustrious trade in sub-prime
mortgages are now betting on our food system, too.

The issue has prompted the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to plan to raise the matter with
Barack Obama later this week in Washington, as part of France's duties as leader of the G20.

So when the coalition government decides to ignore the evidence and turn a blind eye to regulating
the banking sector, the result is inflation and ongoing volatility in financial markets, failing people far
beyond our borders.

These markets need to be brought back under control, limiting excessive speculation, ensuring that
markets are fully transparent, and not holding the rest of us to ransom through unnecessary and
unscrupulous price rises.

This article focuses on the recent and dramatic rise in world food prices (specifically wheat).
It questions the attitudes of some market analysts who put such a rise down to simple
͚supply and demand͛. The article lays the blame at the door of hedge-fund investors and
investment bankers investing billions of dollars, then expecting a return through price rises.
The article concludes by stating that it is not us, but developing countries which will pay the
price for this as to them, the ͚couple of extra pence per loaf of bread͛ is a huge difference.

By Jack Farchy in London

Published: February 10 2011 22:38 | Last updated: February 10 2011 22:38

Europe has moved to loosen import restrictions on important agricultural commodities in response
to tightening domestic markets and skyrocketing prices.

The European Commission͛s agriculture committee proposed suspending import duties on feed
wheat and barley ʹ as well as allowing additional sugar imports at lower tariffs than usual. The
proposals are only in draft form and will need to be voted on at forthcoming committee meetings,
which are held twice a month.

The measure is the clearest acknowledgement yet of the tightness in European agricultural markets.

Import tariffs exist in the European Union in order to support agricultural commodity prices for the
region͛s farmers.

The Commission said the proposal to cut the feed grain import tariff was ͞a reaction on the tight
supplies on world cereals markets͟, adding that the intention was ͞to help facilitate feed cereals
imports from outside the EU and so reduce tensions on the European markets͟.

Prices of feed grains have been rising sharply in the European market as high exportdemand from
the Middle East and North Africa has drained the region͛s stocks while Russia͛s export ban has also
cut supply. EU soft wheat exports since July are up 20 per cent compared with the same period last
year while barley exports have jumped nearly sevenfold. The price of the benchmark European feed
wheat contract in London has risen 110 per cent since June to surpass its peak of the 2007-08 food
crisis, trading at £210.50 a tonne on Thursday.

The price of milling wheat in Paris is also sharply higher and traders expect it to breach its record of
Φ300 a tonne while French feed barley prices are up 130 per cent since June.

The proposal to allow additional sugar imports comes after Portugal suffered a brief sugar shortage
in December when panicked shoppers cleared supermarket shelves. If passed, it could add to
upward pressures on international food prices.

Europe could import an additional 300,000 tonnes of sugar under the new quotas, analysts said,
further squeezing the market with prices near 30-year highs.

ICE March raw sugar, the global benchmark, rose 3.8 per cent to 32.69 cents a pound. Chicago wheat
futures fell.

This article also looks at the rising price of food and the EU͛s plan to lift importation limits in
an attempt to stem such rises. It has been proposed that the duty on barley, wheat and
sugar are to be suspended and lowered. The EU sees this as a way in which to lessen the
burden on EU producers by allowing more imports from outside of the EU, thus lowering
prices by making more ͚stock͛ available.