Tim Lang - Don't Let Them Get Uppity
Where is the 21st-century approach to feeding the world? | Tim Lang | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
The prospect of prices doubling ought to focus minds on forging a replacement for a failed approach to food modernity
To the west, the great success of the food story in the second half of the 20th century was lower prices. This allowed spending to diversify and fuelled the consumer society boom. Proportionately less outlay on food meant more for clothes, homes, holidays and fun.
Oxfam prophesises that food prices will double by 2030. That would take the average British shopping basket to around 20% of disposable income. But to the poorest of the world, it would mean almost all income going on food.
The South African government is reported to be considering whether to emulate Tony Blair's action in 1999 when concerned about food prices. Turn to Wal-Mart. Aware of the vice-like grip Britain's dwindling number of supermarket giants had over 60 million British mouths, Blair sent signals that the UK would welcome the world's biggest food retailer to introduce some price competition. Competition and US capital were to be the recipe to hold down food prices. Wal-Mart purchased Asda, the chain already close to the Wal-Mart giant store model.
Is this model really the answer? Hardly. It's part of the problem. Essentially, the consumer drives to the store. No longer does the food come to the consumer. In a world where oil prices have also rocketed – one of the real reasons for rising food prices – this is no longer an apt model. Surely, the last thing South Africa needs is a retail giant that threatens the existence of thousands of small shopkeepers. Allowing it into Africa may signal modernity, but it's ecological and social irresponsibility.
Keep those happy grinning blacks hard at work on the land, they don't want "clothes, homes, holidays and fun." Not like us well educated liberal whites, it would be wasted on them.