Unilever chief warns over global crisis in food output

Sunday, January 16, 2011
By Paul Martin

The chief executive of one of the world’s largest food producers is to warn that the global crisis in food production is reaching “dangerous territory” with prices soaring and demand outstripping supply.

By Kamal Ahmed
15 Jan 2011

In a speech on Tuesday, Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, will say that market distortions created by European Union subsidies work against the needs of the developing world.

He will also demand fewer subsidies for harmful first-generation bio-fuels and say that climate change must be tackled by companies changing to sustainable models of agriculture.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph Mr Polman said that short-term speculators were also driving up prices. “One of the main things in food inflation is that it has attracted speculators for short-term profit at the expense of people living a dignified life,” Mr Polman said. “It is difficult to understand if you want to work for the long-term interests of society.” He revealed he had spoken to the European Commission’s commissioner for internal markets, Michel Barnier, about the issue. Mr Polman says speculators should be forced to disclose their positions.

Unilever buys 12pc of the world’s tea to make brands such as PG Tips and Liptons. It also purchases 6pc of the world’s tomato supply for its leading brands such as Knorr soup and Pot Noodle.

In the speech, Mr Polman will say that such is his concern about climate change and water scarcity, Unilever is reviewing whether it can sustain tomato cultivation in southern Europe.

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