Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nations begin to barter for food

We are beginning to see the effects of the global credit crunch is having on nations securing food.

Experts have been telling us for a while that credit drying up will make it harder for underdeveloped nations to obtain credit to buy food. They have warned of the damages this could have for world trade. This also raises prices for locally grown food.

Now some countries have begun to admit that they are bartering for food staples. Javier Bias from the Financial Times lists some of the countries who have fessed up to bartering.

In a striking example of how the global financial crisis and high food prices have strained the finances of poor and middle-income nations, countries including Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Morocco say they have signed or are discussing inter-government and barter deals to import commodities from rice to vegetable oil.
The countries have not disclosed the value of any deals, and some have refused even to confirm their existence. Officials estimated that they ranged from $5m for smaller contracts to more than $500m for the biggest.

Josette Sheeran, head of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, said senior government officials, including heads of state, had told the WFP they were facing “difficulties” obtaining credit to purchase food. “This could be a big problem,” she told the Financial Times.

Last week, Malaysia’s commodities minister, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, said Kuala Lumpur had already signed a barter deal swapping palm oil for fertilizer and machinery with North Korea, Cuba and Russia. He said Malaysia was talking to Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Iran about other barter deals.

“[Bartering] could be used for contracts with other countries that do not have the cash,” Mr Chin told the local press. “We can set the conditions for them to supply us with the raw materials that we need.”

Thailand, the world’s largest exporter of rice, is discussing barter deals with Middle Eastern countries, including Iran. The Philippines, the world’s largest importer of rice, has secured rice needs for this year through a diplomatic agreement with Hanoi.

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