Pope Says Food-Price Bets a ‘Scandal’ After 17-Month Slide Ends

Jun 16, 2014 10:51 am ET

June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Pope Francis criticized traders for betting on the direction of food prices, saying financial market speculation deserves part of the blame for shortages.

“Speculation on food prices is a scandal which seriously compromises access to food on the part of the poorest members of our human family,” Francis said today in a speech to a Catholic Church-sponsored investing conference. “It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance.”

Francis, 77, is focusing on food prices after a jump in the first quarter interrupted what the World Bank described as a 17- month decline. Prices surged 2.6 percent in February and 2.5 percent in March before easing in April and May, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture World Food Price Index.

Financial markets have repeatedly been the target of the pope’s criticism since Francis came to power in March 2013. The June 16-17 conference, called “Investing for the Poor,” is overseen by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

“It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences,” said Francis, whose remarks were transcribed and posted in English to the Vatican website.

--With assistance from Alan Bjerga in Washington and Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris.