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US clarifies Bush remark on food crisis
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The White House on Monday sought to cool passions in India ignited by President George W. Bush’s remarks that an increased demand for food in India had contributed to the global food crisis.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the point Bush was trying to make was that “as you increase your standard of living, the food that you eat — it can venture more into meats that require more commodities to feed the livestock, which uses more of those commodities, whether it’s corn or wheat or other commodities, and it drives up the price. So that is just a function of how those food prices that we’ve seen spike in the — around the world.”

Last week Bush, citing India as an example, said, “Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.”

The comments created an uproar in New Delhi. But Stanzel was quick to clarify that a growing middle class is a “good thing.”

Nicholas Minot, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington told The Tribune, “Rather than blaming India and China for purchasing more food than they used to we need to focus on what can be done to meet those increasing demands.”

Analysts say the focus on producing bio-fuels, a so-called green alternative to gasoline, is in part to blame for the food crisis. Stanzel agreed, “As you’ll see here, over the last year, food prices have increased about 43 per cent around the world,” he said, adding, “Of that portion, an increase in the bio-fuel production, about 1.5 per cent of that, is due to an increase in bio-fuel production.”

The other causes for rising food prices, he said, was “increased demand, increased energy prices, or weather-related problems in Australia or in Eastern Europe - problems with wheat production, as an example — that’s driving up the price of those commodities.”

With rising gasoline prices, there is an increased interest in bio-fuels. Yet this alternative takes a heavy fuel on the food market as maize that would otherwise have been used to produce corn syrup or animal feed is diverted toward producing ethanol.




But blames India, China for oil prices

The United States has partly attributed the surge in oil futures to the increased demand in India and China.

"There are a lot of different ways that we can reduce our dependence, but we have more to do and it's just — and also I would point out that, obviously, the demand for oil is growing around the world," Scott Stanzel said.

"Many developing nations like India or China are having greatly increased demand, which obviously is having an impact on price," Stanzel said responding to a question on the crude oil price crossing $120-mark.



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