The United Nations, aid agencies and the Irish government have lined up to attack the world's largest commodities trading company, Glencore, after it described the current global food crisis and soaring world prices as a “good” business opportunity.
The US is currently experiencing a re-run of the ‘Dust Bowl’ days of the 1930s and Russia is suffering a similar food crisis that could see Vladimir Putin's government banning grain exports.
The senior economist of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Concepcion Calpe, said: “Private companies like Glencore are playing a game that will make them enormous profits.”
Ms Calpe said leading international politicians and banks that expected Glencore to back away from trading in potential starvation and hunger in developing nations for “ethical reasons” would be disappointed.
“This won't happen,” she said. “So now is the time to change the rules and regulations about how Glencore and other multinationals operate. They know this and have been lobbying heavily around the world to water down and halt any reform.”
Glencore's director of agriculture trading, Chris Mahoney, sparked the controversy when he said: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.
Stephen O'Brien, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, said: “We know that food-price spikes hit the poorest hardest. Ensuring the poor can still access enough food is vital in times of food-price rises, which is why the UK is investing in safety nets that deliver food and cash to the poorest..”