Washington Babylon — May 21, 2008, 10:56 am

Let them eat dirt: Multinationals reap benefits of commodity crisis

The soaring price of commodities worldwide has been a disaster for the poor, with reports coming out of Haiti that some people don’t have enough money to pay for food and are reduced to eating dirt. But these are happy times for multinational food and grain giants. Patricia Woertz, chairman and CEO of Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM), “the world leader in bio-energy,” said last month that “Volatility in commodity markets presented unprecedented opportunities. Once again, our team leveraged our financial flexibility and global asset base to capture those opportunities to deliver shareholder value.” Meanwhile, Cargill profits were 86% last quarter.

Greg Page, Cargill chairman and CEO, has said: “Prices are setting new highs and markets are extraordinarily volatile. In this environment, Cargill’s team has done an exceptional job measuring and assessing price risk, and managing the large volume of grains, oilseeds and other commodities moving through our supply chains for customers globally.”

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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