Interesting report in the left-leaning Harper’s Magazine called the "The Food Bubble." It’s about the 2008 run-up in wheat prices.
The article is subtitled "How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it."
As author Frederick Kaufman tells it, Goldman Sachs was at the heart of the crisis. It created a commodity index fund and figured out a bunch of tricks like they did in the mortgage market to make money without taking any risk.
Basically, brokers were able to keep rolling over futures and ended up "hoarding staggering quality of wheat futures, billions of promises to buy, not one of their ever to be filled," Kaufman writes
As futures exceeded cash prices, drought hit Australia; floods inundated northern Europe; and biofuels cut U.S. wheat acres.
"When nations across the globe called for their annual hit of hard red spring (wheat), they discovered that the so-called visible supply was far lower than usual. At which point the markets veered into insanity…Bankers had taken control of the worlds’ food, money chased money and a billion people went hungry," Kaufman says.
Could it happen again? Kaufman interviewed Minneapolis Grain Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade officials who not only say "yes" – but that it’s inevitable.
If you are interested in the article, see the Web site harpers.org/archive/2010/07/0083022 or send your address or fax number to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get it to you.