Food price crisis: the role of speculation and concrete proposals for action in the aftermath of the Ukraine war

EESC opinion: Food price crisis: the role of speculation and concrete proposals for action in the aftermath of the Ukraine war

Key points:


  • Draws attention to the global food price crisis, which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Food should not be treated as a financial asset as it is not a commodity like many others;
  • Points out that the current structure of the commodities market is not delivering for the "sustainable economy we need" and for the objectives linked to sustainable development, climate ambition and just transition enshrined in the UN Agenda 2030 and the European Green Deal - but actively works against them. It must therefore be changed through regulation in order to contribute to people's wellbeing and societal development for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Highlights the need to deal with concentration in food chains and financial ownership; stresses that global physical grain trade is highly concentrated.
  • Notes that exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index-based mutual funds, including those specifically linked to food and agriculture, represent new and extensively used avenues for financial investment and profit.
  • Notes that high and fast-rising prices and secrecy about stock holdings create uncertainty and fan fear and panic.
  • Calls on Member States and EU institutions to enhance market transparency, in particular by fostering ESG reporting and non-financial disclosure of actors involved in speculation, ; that every player globally should report to the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), including countries and private actors and further scrutinising Over-the-counter (OTC) transactions.
  • Highlights that commodity derivative markets fulfil key services to the producers and users of food commodities, namely risk management and price discovery, and that the functioning of these markets is undermined through speculative activity; urges Member States and EU institutions to take the necessary steps to curb excessive commodity speculation, in particular by:

- Regulating the futures market, eg by re-introducing a regulated market for food derivatives, introducing strict price movement curbs and daily position limits as soon as trading activities on the commodity futures markets show abnormalities; limiting access to derivative/hedging to qualified and knowledgeable investors and traders who are genuinely concerned about the underlying agricultural commodities introducing short/medium/long term contract obligations to add stability; and incentivising withdrawal of financial speculation in food commodities by banks and fund companies.

- Regulating indexes (commodities indexes and food indexes), eg by regulating and banning commodity index funds and replication via swaps and exchange traded products; stopping public funds / mutual funds[1] to actors involved in food speculation banning soft commodities (e.g. funds, ETFs) allocated in portfolios of institutional actors (e.g. pension funds, insurances).

- Addressing the financialisation of the food sector as massive money-making off the backs of people, eg by introducing windfall taxation on excess profits before dividends of corporations and a food speculation tax[2] to curb high frequency trading and breaking oligopolies at all levels of the chain and financial interests.

[1]            Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS)

[2]            A financial transaction tax exclusively on food speculation. See ECO 321 ‘Financial Transaction tax’.