DZ Bank stops foodstuffs speculation

Germany's DZ Bank said on Monday that it would be stopping its business betting on commodity prices, one of the financial world's hotly contested activities, which has been blamed for pushing up staple food prices.

DZ Bank stops foodstuffs speculation
Photo: DPA

Announced in a letter from DZ board chairman Lars Hilla to consumer watchdog group Foodwatch, the bank said that it would no longer be predicting the prices of, for example, corn, soy or wheat – known as commodity speculation.

Commerzbank and Sparkasse’s Dekabank stopped doing so recently, and critics have long been calling for other banks to follow suit.

Foodwatch and Oxfam have both blamed commodity trading for pushing up food prices and exacerbating famine in poorer countries, Reuters news agency reported. Those in favour say that it helps secure prices.

The move was welcomed by the country’s agriculture minister Ilse Aigner, who has in the past expressed concern that investing in food pushes up prices. “The decision is welcome and sets a clear signal,” a spokesman from her ministry told Der Spiegel magazine.

There must be, he said, a clear division between “responsible investments that help in the fight against hunger, and transactions that can intensify price fluctuations.”

Aigner’s criticism could, Der Spiegel said, be directed at Deutsche Bank, as Germany’s largest private bank has refused to drop commodity speculation, saying there was no proof that it pushed up food prices.

Deutsche Bank’s joint-CEO Jürgen Fitschen even said in January that it did the opposite, helping to end hunger by intelligently steering capital into the the commodities area.

There must be, he said, a clear division between “responsible investments that help in the fight against hunger, and transactions that can intensify price fluctuations.”

DPA/The Local/jcw

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Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus