Majority of Americans and Europeans concerned about food prices


NEW YORK – A new poll in the United States and the five largest European countries looks at public reactions to food prices and the possible future impact of rising grain prices. This poll finds that majorities of the public in the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Spain have become more concerned about the price of food since the global financial crisis, and that most people in these countries and in Germany are spending more money on food or are buying less expensive food.

These are some of the findings of a Financial Times/Harris Poll conducted online by Harris Interactive® among 6,255 adults aged 16-64 within France (1,102), Germany (1,029), Great Britain (1,056), Spain (1,006), U.S. (1,002) and adults aged 18-64 in Italy (1,060) between September 15 and 21, 2010.

According to a recent Financial Times article, worries about rising food prices have been driven by the soaring prices of wheat, barley and corn, following poor harvest in Russia, Ukraine, northern Europe and Canada, due to adverse weather. The surge has accelerated, with corn prices up 13.5% and wheat more than 10%, after the U.S. government warned of ‘dramatically’ lower supplies.

The FT article goes onto say that Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, has made reform of European commodities regulation a priority for France’s Group of 20 presidency, which begins in November. Angela Merkel, German chancellor, last week also threw her weight behind the push for tougher regulation. Key policymakers in Brussels also support an overhaul.

Specific findings of this new poll include:

Majorities in Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. (ranging from 53% to 63%) are more concerned (either somewhat more concerned or much more concerned) about the price of food. In Germany, over four in ten (42%) also feel this way.

Further, in all the countries surveyed, about four in ten adults (ranging from 35% to 40%) indicate that they are spending more money on the same type of food and approximately two in ten or less are spending less on food.

Many people in France, Germany and Spain believe that speculators are the main cause of rising food prices and are to blame far more than the impact of droughts and heavy rains, and of government action, such as export bans. However, Britons and Americans mostly blame the bad weather and government policies.

Only a small minority in Europe and the United States believes higher demand from China, India and other emerging countries is the main culprit;

Many Europeans—including a majority of Britons, Spaniards and Italians—believe governments should cut VAT rates on staples to compensate for surging prices.