Germany must review biofuel subsidies to curb food prices - group

04 March 2011 19:24  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Germany and other countries need to review and possibly end their subsidies to the  biofuels industry if the world is to avoid a major food crisis, the president of Germany’s chamber of commerce said on Friday.

DIHK president Hans Heinrich Driftmann warned that if no steps were taken, the world could be facing a hunger crisis within three years.

“As long as food supplies are not secure globally, we cannot allow the use of agricultural lands for any other purposes, such as energy crops,” Driftmann said with reference to Germany's troubled launch of 10% bioethanol blended gasoline.

Securing global food supplies was "the most important task of our times", he said.

Driftmann said one of the drivers of the current turmoil in north Africa were soaring food prices.

He also pointed to the Mexican tortilla riots of 2007, which became part of a big food or fuel debate at the time.

“For Germany, higher food prices are an annoyance, but in other, poorer countries, the effect is dramatic” and could trigger of floods of refugees trying to get into Europe, he said.

Germany’s biofuel group VDB said biofuel crops accounted for only about 1.3% of global agricultural lands and therefore could not be held responsible for hunger in developing countries.

Driftmann, for his part, also said the current shortages and price increases in oil markets were only temporary and not likely to significantly harm Germany’s economic growth this year.

Germany's growth was so robust that the high oil prices would only dent it a bit at best, he said.

He predicted that oil markets would normalise once the situation in north Africa calmed down. Also, other oil producing countries were preparing to make up the shortfall on oil markets, he said.

Check out Doris de Guzman’s Green Chemicals Blog for views on sustainability issues
Read Paul Hodges’ Chemicals and the Economy Blog

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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