Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Riots on the streets of Addis

"The rapidly escalating global food crisis has reached emergency proportions and threatens to wipe out seven years of progress in the fight against global poverty."
-- Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general

Riots in Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Italy. All over rising food prices. Want the stats from the WB and the UN?

  • Wheat prices: risen 130% since last March
  • Soy prices: risen 87% since last March
  • Overall food prices: risen 83% in the last 3 years
  • Food represents 60-80% of consumer spending in developing countries
  • In just 3 years the price of staples (wheat, corn, rice) has almost doubled

Why this dramatic rise? Reports are citing increased population, biofuel demand, bad weather, high oil and transport costs that companies pass along to consumers, and newly "rich" countries' demand for meat and dairy products.

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to keep corn prices artificially high for farmers, the US has pushed the use of biofuels. Using corn for fuel, however, is fueling food shortages - especially in the developing world.

With Earth Day approaching, it is quite a propos to think of how we can better take care of the environment. However, how can we reconcile these somewhat opposing needs: to provide food for all, especially the poor, and to take care of the environment?


Schlofmans said...

This my dear is a great question. I think that when you find the answer you can solve a great problem that the world is facing right now. Our bishop has advised that we get our food storage in order now because not only will the prices go up but some items may not even reach us here in Florida. So we got our act together and spent a lot of money on our food storage.

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

I had this very discussion with Tish this morning. It's scary to think about a food shortage and living so far away from my parent's trusty food storage. I suppose we'll have to start our own, although I'm not sure we can afford it. But I do feel blessed that we have never had to go hungry, like people in so many parts of the world. I did grow a little garden this year so hopefully my family is okay with living off of three kinds of tomatoes and peas. My thumb is definitely not green so cross your fingers for a good crop!

David Stoker said...

Another issue driving up the price has been the relatively low performance of investments in U.S. capital and real estate markets the last couple years which has driven investors to the commodities market where they are essentially bidding up the price on commodities to inflated levels just as speculation drove up the price of homes. So while millions are feeling the pinch of higher food prices there are a few lucky investors who made a killing as the price skyrocketed. Pun intended.

Heather Sanders said...

Interesting, Daveeeed. Thanks for that insight. I hadn't heard much about that facet.