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Direct democracy Swiss initiative targets food speculation

Campaigners warn: Do not play with food


Voters in Switzerland are likely to have the final say on a proposal by leftwing political parties and development groups to ban banks from speculative trading on agricultural commodities such as wheat, corn, soybean and sugar.

The Young Socialists Party on Monday handed in about 117,000 signatures for their initiative ‘No speculation with foodstuffs”, collected since September 2012.

The campaigners say they want to combat ‘man-made’ famine around the world and put an end to increasing financial speculation on commodity markets.

They have blamed Swiss banks and Swiss-based multinationals for their roles, saying massive price fluctuations resulting from speculation was ruining the livelihood of small farmers across the world.

Commodities trading has gained in importance for the Swiss economy over the past decade.

The small alpine nation is home to around 500 commodities firms, including giants Glencore, Cargill, Vitol and Trafigura. The industry’s 10,000 employees contribute around 3.5% to national gross domestic product – more than the tourist industry.

In parliament

Parliament and the government are due to discuss the initiative before a date is set for a nationwide ballot on the issue.

They are also likely to discuss separate proposals in the next few years.

The cabinet wants to reform over-the-counter trade in derivatives, done without the supervision of an exchange.

An initiative by the country's main farmers organisations and the rightwing Swiss People’s Party seeks to boost food production in Switzerland. and agencies

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