With only ten weeks supply of corn left in the state controlled granaries, a hundred million Egyptian people are faced with the very real possibility of mass hunger this summer. The traditional resource of cheap wheat from the fertile steppes of Russia and the Ukraine has been closed effectively by the sanctions imposed by the U.S.A. and its allies and the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports. There is little money in the state coffers to pay the prices demanded in the western commodity markets which are controlled by profiteering giants such as Glencore, Trafigura and Goldman Sachs and alternative sources from the east are hard to come by. China has built an enormous reserve of 650 million tonnes of grain and has ample supplies of rice but is fearful of drought and a repetition of the starvation previously endured by its huge population. The same applies to India which until recently had surpluses to sell but, with an agricultural economy hanging by a climatic thread, will soon be only an importer. Nearer at hand , Saudi Arabia has 3.3 million tonnes stored in desert silos but regards food as a political weapon to be used (with its western allies) to achieve domination in the Middle East including the harsh subjection of the Houthis in Yemen and in the ongoing theatres of war in Somalia and South Sudan.
Along with Lebanon , Tunisia and other countries of the Arab Spring rebellions of the early 2010s, Egypt´s military government may soon be sending hungry dissidents to its many miserable prisons if crippling loans are not obtained from the IMF or the hovering financial bandits who are ready to snap up state-owned corporations at fire sale prices. Alternatively, it may resort to breaching the sanctions wall by importing cereals indirectly through Russia´s several back doors with clandestine payment being made through the new and largely impenetrable cryptocurrency industry
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) considers that most of its member countries are still reasonably self-sufficient in the growing of essential foodstuffs within their frontiers but the cumulative 21st century pressures of climate change, pandemics, conflicts, runaway inflation and financial instability will enforce a drastic change in global agricultural production and its distribution to a global population which has increased from three to eight billion in seventy years and is forecast to top 9.7 billion by year 2050.
The introduction in the 1970s of shipping by container vastly improved the logistics of moving supplies over great distances but the system is fragile. Any disruption , however temporary, causes destabilisation of the whole system as may be exemplified by blocking of the Suez canal for six days in March 2021 by the gigantic vessel “Ever Given” causing losses estimated at €15m daily plus immeasurable damages caused by transit delays to the several thousand cargo vessels constantly sailing under “flags of convenience” across the world´s oceans. This distribution system can be expanded to meet the burgeoning demands of an increasing population although the question of what essential foodstuffs can be moved and to where needs stricter humanitarian control.
It is with the production of food that a second Agricultural Revolution is urgently required. The rapidly shrinking areas of fertile land and unpolluted waters of planet Earth must be controlled by a new global body of a democratically elected United Nations freed from the greed of corporate capitalism. Agronomists - not conglomerates - may then produce the nutritious diet so desperately needed by the 850,000,000 impoverished people who presently try to exist on €2.00 a day and whose number is predicted by FAO to double or even triple within the next decade.
An unattainable Marxist Utopia which will be blocked by the elitist one per cent who control the wealth of the world ? Perhaps ; but the alternative of allowing the manifestation of a contagious societal collapse through starvation and poverty (as predicted only ten years ago by economists such as Piketty and Stiglitz) is a grim reality.
Take, for example, Cargill Inc. which declares annually an income in excess of USD 115 billion derived mainly from its activities in the commodity markets for foodstuffs and fertilisers. As with its peers, the Walton and Rothschild families, it is privately owned with 88% of shares belonging to twenty three descendant inheritors of its founder each of whom has a personal wealth valued at between four and eight billion dollars. Their trading activities this year have already shown an increased profit of around 30% derived largely from selling short in the futures market for grain and other cereal products. How does one explain such machinations to those who go hungry to bed each night to dream of the oysters, caviar and champagne enjoyed on the super yachts of the elite.