Barclays Bank has won a 'shame award'' for speculating on food prices. The award was presented on Friday (27 January) in Davos, Switzerland, to coincide with the World Economic Forum.
Barclays’ activity is fuelling hunger and poverty worldwide, according to the World Development Movement (WDM), who nominated the bank for the award.
Barclays is estimated to make up to £340m a year from speculating in food 'futures' markets, making it the biggest UK player involved. WDM say that massive influxes of speculative money in food markets have been driving sharp price spikes, sending the cost of food soaring beyond the reach of the world’s poorest people.
Barclays' Public Eye 'global award' was selected by a panel of judges. The 'people’s award', decided by an online vote, went to a Brazilian company, Vale, for its involvement in the construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon. 40,000 people are likely to be forced from their land if the dam goes ahead.
UK Treasury ministers met Barclays at least 15 times within the first year of the coalition government. Barclays CEO Bob Diamond responded to the Occupy movement by telling the BBC in November that banks must be “better citizens”.
Rules to curb speculation are being discussed in the European Union. A number of NGOs say that the UK government is opposing effective legislation. They fear that the banking and financial sectors are exercising undue influence with the corridors of power.
Speaking after the award was presented, WDM's Amy Horton accused Barclays of “gambling with the price of food, and therefore with people’s lives”.
She added, “Speculation benefits a tiny minority in the financial sector, and at the same time fuels food price spikes which force millions of people to go hungry. Governments must take urgent action to curb this reckless practice.”
The Public Eye Awards are organised by Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration.