Thursday, 27 March 2008

Now This IS Seriously Worrying

Did you know that the price of rice (in the global commodities market) had doubled since January? And that wheat, corn, soya and others agricultural commodities have been 'surging since 2006' according to the FT. Their latest report says "Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to an all-time high on Thursday, raising fears of fresh outbreaks of social unrest across Asia where the grain is a staple food for more than 2.5bn people."

Meanwhile last month the UN said they were "drawing up plans to ration food aid in response to the spiralling cost of agricultural commodities. The World Food Programme is holding crisis talks to decide what aid to halt if new donations do not arrive in the short term. "The main focus of the WFP to date has been to provide aid in areas where food was unavailable. But the programme now faces having to help countries where the price of food, rather than shortages, is the problem. Ms Sheeran said that in response to rising food costs, families in developing countries were moving in some cases from three meals a day to just one, or dropping a diverse diet to rely on one staple food." "The WFP crisis talks come as the body sees the emergence of a “new area of hunger” in developing countries where even middle-class, urban people are being “priced out of the food market” because of rising food prices."

Seriously worrying, brings to mind Thomas Homer Dixon's idea of synchronous failure; multiple global crises acting in concert.

Plus it's heart rending simply to know that an even higher than usual proportion of the world's children will have gone to bed hungry tonight.


Paul F said...

Its funny how the worlds poorest always suffer first, and most. Well its not funny at all, its sickening.

Most of the price rise in food, both here and in the US can be linked to the massive hike in fertiliser cost. I know I am paying 40%-60% more for animal feed than I was last year and 80% more than 2 years ago. I assume its the same in other parts of the world.

Of course the average consumer has no idea where their food comes from or how it gets to them, they just dont care as long as its cheap, it doesnt even have to taste that good in some cases. I would put money on the fact that about 90% of people dont know that fertilisers are oil based.

Does anyone have any idea as to the publics reaction to the rise in food prices? Do they know why its gone up?

Freya said...

Small but cool way to take action on rice from the NY Times:

a brilliant, addictive way to do a bit of good.

John Grant said...

more from FT:

Governments across the developing world are scrambling to boost farm imports and restrict exports in an attempt to forestall rising food prices and social unrest.

Saudi Arabia cut import taxes across a range of food products on Tuesday, slashing its wheat tariff from 25 per cent to zero and reducing tariffs on poultry, dairy produce and vegetable oils.

On Monday, India scrapped tariffs on edible oil and maize and banned exports of all rice except the high-value basmati variety, while Vietnam, the world’s third biggest rice exporter, said it would cut rice exports by 11 per cent this year.

The moves mark a rapid shift away from protecting farmers, who are generally the beneficiaries of food import tariffs, towards cushioning consumers from food shortages and rising prices.

But economists warned that such actions risked provoking an upward spiral in global food prices, which have already been pushed higher by rising demand from emerging markets like China and India and pressure on land from the growing production of bio-fuels.