The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Grain prices:
Speculators gamble with our food

Feb 18, 2008

Prices of wheat, corn and soybeans have all reached all-time highs.

The economists say that part of the reason for the price increase is that weird weather in the past year has hurt crops – from the droughts in the southwest and southeast last summer to the freak snowstorms in China this past month. Part of it is supposed to be the increase in the amount of corn going to the production of ethanol.

Whatever amount of truth is included in those excuses (and there’s lots of reason to say they’re exaggerated), one thing’s for sure: a big reason for the high prices is pure speculation: financial speculators have been looking for places to put their money since the real estate bubble burst last year. As speculators have bought up grain futures, THEIR demand for the futures sent prices through the roof.

The higher grain prices have already affected the price of all sorts of groceries we depend on daily. They affect not only the prices of bread and pasta, but also prices of beef, milk, chicken and eggs, because cows and chickens are both fed grains. And prices will only get worse as the speculation spreads.

At a time when workers’ wages are falling, not rising, this spike in the prices of staples is catastrophic for the working class.

Speculators couldn’t care less. And not just about the population. Jumping from commodity to commodity, looking to make a quick buck NOW, they gleefully watch as the prices jump up – even when their speculation threatens to bring the whole capitalist system crashing down around their ears.