Posted tagged ‘food’

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

January 27, 2014

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We’re having a production-related problem with rice today in the Philippines today, which looks more like an echo problem of a larger global phenomenon of food crisis. Riots have already been experienced in at least 33 countries, and we may expect the frequency to rise in the months ahead.

To single out production factors, and especially to pinpoint flawed land-use patterns as the cause of the crisis, tends to blur the real cause behind much of our peace and development problems in the world today. This crisis is one of the anarchic results of orchestrations done by financial speculators over a stretch of three (3) decades, followed through recently by food cartels’ machinations to heighten up their looting of the public’s resources via the food market.

Let us recall that as early as the 1980s, the move towards liberalizing the food markets and integrate this sector into the evolving ‘virtual economy’—by unleashing speculative practices on agricultural products via instrument of ‘commodities markets’—already crept into our national boundaries. Gradually did the pattern get integrated into a global mesh of transactions involving not only food but a long list of articles of trade and services being transacted via the secondary markets or hedge funds.

The objective, as far as this observer now sees it, is to emerge a few gigantic cartels globally that some day dominate a global oligopoly. Probably as little as five (5) such colossal mega-corporations will be well prepositioned to control global food, thus enabling their control not only of the gene stocks (intellectual properties) but of prices most of all.

This scenario is now happening in steel. As soon as we hit the 900+ tones per annum or TPA production of global steel in the 1990s, plans were already afoot to eventually cartelize steel via mergers of giant steel firms, with the participation of fund managers in the process and ownership structures. The merger of Mittal and Alcelor, which resulted to the gigantic firm that now produces over 100 tpa, had now clearly substantiated this long forecast move to cartelize steel. In the near future, just about 3-5 such giants, each one producing 150+ tpa, will be left to control the global market of steel.

Didn’t you notice the sudden fluctuations in the prices of metals globally beginning in the middle of this decade yet? Often than not, based on our experience of the depression-era Weimar Republic, this phenomenon of hyper-inflationary swings in base and precious metal prices are preceding events prior to a global depression. This time around, the panic created by the corresponding process would be the sweetening of the steel merger option (with fund manager participation or rather manipulation) and, voila! Steel cartels are up! Hail the Cartels to the highest heavens!

The pattern is getting to be noxiously obvious that even a mere high school student of economics and history could easily see them. This same pattern is now creeping thru the food sector, even as it has also been taking down aluminum, nickel, copper, gold, banking, retail, realty, and lots of more sectors, with steel being the prototype experiment.

For the sharp observers out there, do make your tallies now as to which of the present food giants would emerge the victors. I will not be surprised if one day, my country’s own biggest F&B group, the San Miguel Corporation, will be gobbled up, via a merger with a larger corporate fish, and melt out into existence except in mere concept and memory of a once mighty firm.

Start making your tallies now. Meantime, let’s also start tallying the riots and casualties due to famine and food-related problems, and see where the casualty level will reach before the 3-5 cartels will become sacrosanct global food market controllers. It surely takes so much blood spillage to advance the interests of the Global Oligarchy, this is what we can get from the picture.

 

[Writ 28 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

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FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

January 14, 2014

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Food wars are coming, prepare for the contingencies! This is now a visible possibility, so all those enthused development stakeholders and peace-builders better insert an extra agendum on their ‘key result areas’.

Given the so many sources of conflict that are natural resources related, the latest ones being the ‘water wars’, it is no longer a remote possibility that food wars will erupt in some ‘hot soup spots’ in the world. Such hot spots are not those ones the world knows today (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, Taiwan-China strait) that can be potential starting points for great wars. But somehow, the areas and the food wars coming can ‘cross-cut’ the issues involving conflicts in the hot spots we know.

The scenario would be as follows:

· A convergence of volatilities in the global market would, at one conjuncture, lead to simultaneous price increases in food, oil/energy, metals, utilities. Hoarding then takes place at alarmingly uncontrollable levels. Shockingly, the old ‘policy tools’ to control prices and hoarding won’t work.

· Massive urban riots and upheavals in the affected rural areas take place. New militia groups will rise almost overnight, challenging both national armies and established warlord and rebel groups where these are found.

· Noticing that their own food, energy, base metal stocks are near or pass the critical points, affected states will then turn blind eye to the militias. Tying up with underworld for arms and information, the militias would then conduct quick eco-scan of neighboring countries that are relatively porous for food ransack operations. Key areas would be mapped out as professionally as possible.

· Noticing their own relative porosity, the panic response of affected food supplier states would be to plug their borders as quickly as they can before hothead militias come. They may do panic last-level talks with the state leaders of neighboring countries, who in turn will simply claim that they do not control warlord/militia groups at all. They may send token protection groups at the border.

· Anticipating such moves, the militias, forming cross-country alliances, will mount a coordinated surprise attack. Invasive entries will be done from around 5-6 country origins, using both dawn and dusk attacks. Simultaneous attacks via air, sea, land, rivers & lakes will be mounted on all fronts.

· Effectively unable to prevent the coordinated invasion, the national army/police of the affected state will watch in horror as the rapid moving invaders coalesce with internal players (‘dog of wars’ supplied by local mafia or related groups) to open and ransack warehouses.

· The invaders will then retreat back to their base origins as quick as they’ve entered the porous state. Hot pursuit is simply nil, save for a few sporadic gunfights with retreating forces.

· The affected state will then demand for indemnification or equivalent payment from the militias’ respective states, none of which may come at all. Given the already burgeoning subsidies by states to shore up domestic supplies and prevent further civil unrest due to the crisis, the states will simply have no resource for indemnification. To print more money for indemnification would be to risk hyper-inflation on top of an already inflationary environment.

· With hardly any sincere face-saving moves by the militias’ states, the affected state may then be provoked into a ‘call to arms’ and do some punitive attacks on some quick neighbors. It can also unleash the firepower of rebel groups from the ransacking countries that are based in its territory, arm these groups and make them lead punitive attacks.

· Unless cooler heads prevail in the region, a regional conflagration could ensue, hence widening the latitudes of the conflict. The original ‘hot soup’ for the stomach then turns to a ‘hot caldron’ of total war. Multilateral efforts may fail for a time, as the conflicts happen in at least three (3) world regions.

Partners in development and peace, this scenario can no longer be ignored today. Let us all prepare for the eventuality. If it can be stopped by cutting off the bud before it blooms, whatever that may take, then let’s better do it as soon as we can. Time is now against us, I believe, as events are moving so fast they happen as soon as we forecast them, like the formation of the food cartels.

If there would still be time to constitute strategic studies teams that can eco-scan the planet and identify possible ‘hot soup spots’, this would be a welcome move. Failing to recognize the evolving contingency, let’s not get shocked at all when the paramilitary ‘dogs of war’ will be at the gates of the bereaved states. They deserve some ‘hot soup’ after all, we may surmise.

 

[Writ 04 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

PHILIPPINES’ CAMPOS GROUP BUYS U.S. DEL MONTE CORP, NEW INVESTING HISTORY BEGINS

October 27, 2013

PHILIPPINES’ CAMPOS GROUP BUYS U.S. DEL MONTE CORP, NEW INVESTING HISTORY BEGINS

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good day to you, global citizens!

 

For the good news coming from Asia: the Philippines’ Campos group, majority owner of NutriAsia, just bought the Del Monte Pacific Ltd., a US-based company that has been operating a large subsidiary in the Philippines. This is a milestone event for Filipino business investments in the USA, which could be followed up by other Philippine-based conglomerates buying into other American-owned big businesses inside the USA.

 

This experience isn’t exactly precedent setting. Couples of years ago, the San Miguel Corporation, PH’s largest Food & Beverage conglomerate, bought the NatFood of Australia. NatFood is Australia’s biggest F&B firm by the way, so that negotiation marks a precedence to show the maturity and advanced systems of economic enterprises constituted in the Philippines.

 

Though it isn’t precedent-setting on a regional-global setting, it is milestone for U.S. engagements by Filipino businessmen & entrepreneurs. Since F&B companies in the Philippines have attained a maturity and advanced development, expect the purchase by other Filipino F&B giants, such as Jollibee Group, of large F&B companies owned by American business tycoons.

 

It may not be long when the big realty mall-makers of the Philippines will set foot in the USA. SM Group, Gokongwei Group, and Ayala Group are the top players so far, besides being recognized as among Asia’s topguns in the terrain of mall-making. Not only do these conglomerates make big malls, they also produce architectural marvels that are among the world’s top mall architectural wonders.

 

I would credit the maturation of the Filipino companies to good measures of corporate governance, update organizational culture, and best practices put into place across the decades. Re-engineered to pass the test of time and resilience, the same Filipino firms have become global and have invested in other regions and continents as well.

 

It is merely the ‘planting season’ for Filipino investments overseas as of the moment. At a certain juncture in the foreseeable future, when the pattern attains maturity, the repatriation of profits from such business concerns to the Philippines will exceed those of remittances from overseas workers. I’ve been forecasting this trend since the start of the new millennium yet, and I’m optimistic of its coming to fruition timed with the maturation of the Philippine economy to a 1st world rich economy by the latter part of next decade.

 

[Manila, 19 October 2013]

 

Source: http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/10/12/1244140/campos-firm-buys-del-monte-us-1.7-b

Campos firm buys Del Monte US for $1.7 B

By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 12, 2013 – 12:00am

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MANILA, Philippines – Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (DMPL), majority owned by the NutriAsia Group of Campos family, is buying the consumer food business of US-based Del Monte Foods (DMF) for nearly $1.7 billion.

The move will give DMPL access to the profitable US and South American markets while boosting its net sales by around $1.8 billion, the company said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The Singapore and Philippine-listed DMPL said it entered into a definitive agreement for subsidiary Del Monte Foods Consumer Products Inc. to acquire privately-owned DMF for $1.675 billion.

“This landmark transaction offers DMPL greater access to a well-established, attractive and profitable branded consumer food business in the world’s biggest market,” said DMPL chairman Rolando Gapud.

“Prior to this acquisition, the US was one of few key markets where our company did not have a direct presence nor have its own brands,” Gapud said.

Shares of DMPL in the local bourse surged to as much as P39.50 yesterday before closing 11.11 percent higher at P30 apiece from P27 on Thursday.

Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

DMF owns the Del Monte brand rights for processed food products in the US and South America. Its consumer business has a strong portfolio of leading brands, with seasoned employees, healthy cash flows and $1.8 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ended last April.

DMF owns the iconic Del Monte brand, along with Contadina, S&W and College Inn brands. The company claims to  be number one in major canned fruit and vegetable categories in th US and top two in canned tomato and broth categories.

“This leading branded market position in the canned fruit and vegetable segments provides DMPL with significant scale and reach and, the company believes, an opportunity to unlock meaningful potential synergies,” the firm said.

Under the agreement, DMPL will buy the brands and certain assets and liabilities of DMF, including equity interests in certain South American subsidiaries.

DMPL said it will finance the acquisition through a combination of $745 million of equity in the new acquisition subsidiary as well as $390 million in long-term debt financing from BDO Capital and Investment Corp. and Bank of the Philippine Islands.

“As part of the equity financing, the company plans to issue common and preferred shares in the market,” DMPL said, adding that the acquisition will be finalized not later than the first quarter next year.

Moving forward, DMPL plans to launch new product offerings to the US catering to the growing Hispanic and AsianAmerican markets.

“The company expects to generate significant value creation opportunities in the US market through the expansion of DMF’s current product offering to include beverage and culinary products,” Gapud said. 

DMF’s consumer food business is also an attractive platform to offer certain products appealing to the large Hispanic and Asian American population in the US, he added.

DMPL’s 23,000-hectare plantation in Mindanao is the world’s largest fully integrated pineapple operation with a 750,000-metric ton processing capacity. It was set up in 1926 by the US government because of the widespread pineapple disease in Hawaii.

DMPL produces, markets and distributes food, beverages and related products in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian subcontinent, and has supply deals with Del Monte Pacific trademark owners and licensees around the world.

In the first half, DMPL’s sales gained 14 percent to $208.4 million while net income inched up two percent to $10.6 million.

DMPL’s principal shareholder NutriAsia leads the Philippine market for condiments (Datu Puti and UFC), specialty sauces (Jufran and Mang Tomas) and cooking oil (Golden Fiesta).

FOOD PRICES UP, SPECULATORS ATTACK ANEW!

March 9, 2011

FOOD PRICES UP, SPECULATORS ATTACK ANEW!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Winds of change are blowing hard on the granite edifices of autocratic regimes in pan-Arabia. As this is happening, financier speculators cashed in on the conflict by playing it up in the petrol spot market, thus raising oil prices to scorching heat levels. More areas of the global economy are under attack by the financier speculators, food & beverage among them.

As gas price in Manila has been rising by the week, so have the prices of food been going up. We are today on a bounty season for fruits here at the tropics—near the equator—yet such commodities’ prices are also moving up abnormally like they were in a situation of scarcity. Grains, vegetables, meat, cooking oil, and other related prime commodities have been accompanying the spurious OPH (oil price hike).

Little do common folks realize the handiwork of greedy speculators in the present inflationary patterns in food on a worldwide range. But that’s the fact, and many times before was it proved beyond doubt that greedy speculators, fronted by dirty operators, have always been busying their hands in reaping mega-profits on food commodities during times of crises.

Fact is, even when there is no crisis—such as crisis in the supply line—the speculators create the situation of crisis by hoarding millions of tons of specific commodities, e.g. rice. The instantaneous effect is the sign given off to traders in the commodities markets to play it up on the trading engagements, and elevating the emotive facet of the matter to the level of panic and near-hysteria.

Remember that time three (3) years back or so when rice suddenly began to disappear in the retail end of the market in the Philippines. There was a bounty season at that juncture, which came as a shock to me upon knowing from insiders (ground-level traders) that gargantuan hoards of rice were hidden inside many warehouses. President Arroyo then announced to the world that the PH will buy rice from overseas no matter how much the price is.

Of course, the commodities traders (speculative investors) heard the signal well. And voila! Rice prices across continents skyrocketed almost overnight! I even went on to forecast that it the near future, a cartel of sorts will be organized by certain countries to protect themselves versus the attackers. To make my hair rise on ends, hardly a day passed when I published my blog article about the forecast, certain Southeast Asian countries announced the formation precisely of such a rice cartel.

As the conflict situation in pan-Arabia boils up for some time, mark it down that the same coterie of financier speculators will keep on pursuing speculative attacks on certain prime commodities. Let’s not be surprised at all if the major staples—wheat, rice, sorghum, barley, oat, potatoes, yam—will experience inflationary upsets on the retail end over the next forty-five (45) days or so.

I have to prepare myself psychologically for the hyper-criminal speculative attacks this time. During the global rice crisis mentioned, I experienced sudden hypertension attack, as my cardiac condition quickly reacted to the rapidity of the crisis up to the pronouncement of rice cartel formation, rendering my forecasts a 100% mark hit.

So you fellow global citizens better watch out for the unfolding events, so as to prepare yourselves psychologically and financially too.

[Philippines, 08 March 2011]

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INDIA’S RURAL SALVATION COULD BE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

August 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning from Manila!

 

India’s rural poor is very high in frequency as its overall rural population is still at an all-time high of 80%. No matter how heated the industrialization efforts are at the moment, it will take time before the benefits of industrialization will permeate the rural folks.

 

It is no wise action to force rural areas to commercial urbanization as an option to alleviate urban poverty.

 

[15 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

 

 

Sustainable agriculture: a pathway out of poverty for India’s rural poor

Produced by: Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (2008)

Millions of farmers in remote rural areas of India struggle to feed themselves and their families, while the resources on which they depend are deteriorating daily. This book shows how sustainable agriculture can help India’s farmers – especially those in poor, remote areas – pull themselves out of poverty.

The book details 14 examples of how development initiatives have helped farmers in some of the remotest parts of the country break out of the cycle of poverty, debt and environmental degradation, and improve their lives and livelihoods through agriculture that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.

The examples fall into three areas:

  • organic agriculture
  • land and water management
  • improving market access for small-scale farmers.

These examples were selected not only due to their success, but also because they have the potential to be replicated on a large scale. The analysis and lessons are intended to be applied to a wide variety of situations, not just in India, but also throughout the world. The authors argue that such large-scale application is vital if the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability are to be met.

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38679&em=310708&sub=agric

AMERICAS’ DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

August 13, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let’s continue our news sharing about development-related matters. Across the Americas comes news bits, from penguin populations in Argentina to environmental news in Brazil, up through governance news in Venezuela.  

[01 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.]

Argentina

Penguin populations have plummeted at a key breeding colony in Argentina, mirroring declines in many species of the marine flightless birds due to climate change, pollution and other factors, a study shows. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington professor who led the research, said the plight of the penguins is an indicator of big changes in the world’s oceans due to human activities. For the past 25 years, Boersma has tracked the world’s largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins on Argentina’s Atlantic coast. Since 1987 she has observed a 22 percent decrease in the population of these penguins at the site. (Reuters)

Brazil

Brazil’s new environment minister, Carlos Minc, called all sugar cane mills in the northeastern state of Pernambuco an environmental “disaster of disasters” and fined them USD 75 million. In a crackdown called Old Green Mill conducted jointly with the environmental protection agency Ibama, Minc said that all 24 mills in the state had committed a series of crimes. Since he took over as minister after conservationist icon Marina Silva stepped down several weeks ago, Minc has targeted Brazil’s powerful farmers, ranchers and miners, who are riding a global commodity boom, and blamed them for fueling deforestation. (Reuters)

Colombia

Republican John McCain, in an unusual trip to Colombia as a US presidential candidate, called on President Alvaro Uribe on July 1 to make further progress on human rights while pushing the US Congress to vote on a trade pact between the two countries. McCain kicked off a three-day trip to South America and Mexico by meeting Uribe in an effort to tout his positions on trade and showcase his foreign policy experience over that of Democratic rival Barack Obama. McCain pressed the Colombian president to make further progress on human rights issues while highlighting the success of efforts under his administration in fighting the FARC. (Reuters)

Haiti

Aid for Haiti is falling short as the Caribbean country is buffeted by urgent needs to help feed its poor while developing domestic food production and jobs, a UN official said on June 1. The UN System is an umbrella group that represents all of the international organizations and conventions that have been created by the world body. Permanent coordinator of the UN System in Haiti Joel Boutroue said the UN System plans to collect USD 131 million in funding for near- and mid-term programs to support local food production and the creation of new jobs in the poorest country in the Americas. (Reuters)

United States

US President George W Bush has signed a bill removing Nelson Mandela and South African leaders from the US terror watch list, officials say. Mandela and ANC party members will now be able to visit the US without a waiver from the secretary of state. The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organization by South Africa’s old apartheid regime. A US senator said the new legislation was a step towards removing the “shame of dishonoring this great leader.” (BBC)

Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez was personally involved in covering up his nation’s role in an Argentine election scandal, according to a court statement by a witness who might testify at a criminal trial in Miami. The claim was made by Franklin Duran, who faces trial on charges of acting in the US as an unregistered agent of Chavez’s government. Prosecutors say Duran conspired to silence a Florida businessman who toted USD 800,000 in a suitcase from Caracas to Buenos Aires, where the valise was seized Aug. 4. Prosecutors say the cash was intended for the campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was elected president of Argentina on Oct. 28. (Bloomberg)

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 1, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

·        Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

 

·        Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

 

·        At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]