The march of interconnected global forces does not cease.... global trade, global finance, global village, global terror, global war on terror, global corporations, global warming, global travel, global citizens, sub-prime crisis, global energy crisis, etc.... And now Global Food Crisis!
...it seems only yesterday, that one heard people talking about the benefits of globalisation, and how now there is plenty of food to feed the world... And given time (and "good" governance) it will all trickle down.
In any case, here is a slice of news headlines from global press:
Financial Post (April 8, 2008)
..."We are now by all accounts in the midst of a global food crisis: key grain prices were up 40% to 130% in the last year, people are protesting and hardship is mounting. But it could soon be worse. Governments and agencies all over the world are gearing up for a global "New Deal" on agriculture policy to solve the food crisis, which means the people who brought us the food crisis are the same people who now want to fix it.
The World Bank reports that prices of staples have jumped 80% since 2005. The price of rice hit a 19-year high last month, and wheat rose to a 28-year high, twice the average price of the last 25 years. Factors behind the surge in prices are varied, including bad weather in some regions, soaring demand from growing populations, and US$100-a-barrel oil".
The Guardian (August 29, 2007)
..."As the US, Europe, China, Japan and other countries commit themselves to using 10% or more alternative automobile fuels, farmers everywhere are rushing to grow maize, sugar cane, palm oil and oil seed rape, all of which can be turned into ethanol or other biofuels for automobiles. But that means getting out of other crops.
The scale of the change is boggling. The Indian government says it wants to plant 35m acres (140,000 sq km) of biofuel crops, Brazil as much as 300m acres (1.2m sq km). Southern Africa is being touted as the future Middle East of biofuels, with as much as 1bn acres (4m sq km) of land ready to be converted to crops such as Jatropha curcas (physic nut), a tough shrub that can be grown on poor land. Indonesia has said it intends to overtake Malaysia and increase its palm oil production from 16m acres (64,000 sq km) now to 65m acres (260,000 sq km) in 2025."
The Times - Online (April 8, 2008)
..."The US Department of Agriculture believes that the world will suffer a 29 million tonne discrepancy this year between what it needs to feed itself and what it can actually produce. Markets have been quick to recognise this and the traditional Asian staples of soyabeans, palm oil and pork have all soared.
Many grain and edible oil markets have also been squeezed by what some observers believe is an unsustainable conflict between cars and stomachs. Land that might previously have been used to feed people is increasingly planted with crops designed for conversion to biofuels, forcing unexpected rises in the prices of everything from tofu to instant noodles."
CNN (March 25, 2008)
..."From subsistence farmers eating rice in Ecuador to gourmets feasting on escargot in France, consumers worldwide face rising food prices in what analysts call a perfect storm of conditions. Freak weather is a factor. But so are dramatic changes in the global economy, including higher oil prices, lower food reserves and growing consumer demand in China and India...
...Clashes over bread in Egypt killed at least two people last week, and similar food riots broke out in Burkina Faso and Cameroon this month.
But food protests now crop up even in Italy. And while the price of spaghetti has doubled in Haiti, the cost of miso is packing a hit in Japan...
...Among the driving forces are petroleum prices, which increase the cost of everything from fertilizers to transport to food processing. Rising demand for meat and dairy in rapidly developing countries such as China and India is sending up the cost of grain, used for cattle feed, as is the demand for raw materials to make biofuels.
What's rare is that the spikes are hitting all major foods in most countries at once. Food prices rose 4 percent in the U.S. last year, the highest rise since 1990, and are expected to climb as much again this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As of December, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls"....
Democracy Now! (April 8, 2008)
..."Global food prices have risen dramatically, adding a new level of danger to the crisis of world hunger. In Africa, food riots have swept across the continent, with recent protests in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Senegal. In most of West Africa, the price of food has risen by 50 percent——in Sierra Leone, 300 percent. In the United States there has been a 41 percent surge in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other cereals over the past six months".
New York Times (April 8, 2008). By Paul Krugman
..."These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.
I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.
There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers — and making things even worse in countries that need to import food..."
Business Day (April 4, 2008)
..."World Bank president Robert Zoellick called yesterday for a co-ordinated response to the spiralling prices, which “were exacerbating shortages, hunger and malnutrition around the globe”. He said 33 countries could face social unrest because of higher food and energy prices....
....“We need a new deal for global food policy that should focus not only on hunger and malnutrition, access and supply, but also on the interconnections with energy, yields, climate change, investment, the marginalisation of women and others, and economic resilience and growth.""
The Times of India (March 8, 2008)
..."Global wheat stocks were down to 107 million MT (metric tonnes) in 2007, compared with over 197 million MT in 2001; rice stocks were just 71 million MT compared with 136 million MT...
....In 2007, the world supply of wheat was affected due to drought in Australia, a freeze in US and lower production in Ukraine. The price surge was also fuelled by the new US law saying the use of ethanol for automobiles should be doubled to 15 billion gallons by 2015. Ethanol is made from corn..."
The Standard - Hongkong (April 2, 2008)
..."Global food prices rose 35 percent in the year to the end of January, according to the United Nations, accelerating an upturn that began in 2002. Since then, prices have risen 65 percent....
....The Chinese, who ate just 20 kilograms of meat per capita in 1985, now eat 50kg a year. Each kilogram of beef takes about 7kg of grain to produce, which means land that could be used to grow food for humans is being diverted to growing animal feed.
As the West seeks to tackle global warming, a drive towards greener fuels is also compounding the problem. It is estimated that one in four bushels of corn from this year's US crop will be diverted to make fuel ethanol.
Palm oil is also at record prices because of demand to use it for biofuel, causing pain for low-income families in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is a staple.
But despite the rising criticism of biofuels, the US corn-fed ethanol industry enjoys wide political support because it helps farmers."
And so we may continue to see an increase in these global trends as have been happening during last few weeks/months... e.g.,