Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers can’t keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over.
Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports—a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century.
Plundered by severe weather in producing countries and by a boom in demand from fast-developing nations, the world’s wheat stocks are at 30-year lows. Grain prices have been on the rise for five years, ending decades of cheap food.
Widespread drought, a declining dollar, a shift of investment money into commodities and use of farm land to grow fuel have all contributed to the food woes. But population growth and the growing wealth of China and other emerging countries are likely to be more enduring factors.
World population is set to hit 9 billion by 2050, and most of the extra 2.5 billion people will live in the developing world. It is in these countries that the population is demanding dairy and meat, which require more land to produce.
“This is an additional setback for the world economy, at a time when we are already going through major turbulence. But the biggest drama is the impact of higher food prices on the poor,” Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) told Reuters.
In Gurria’s native Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn.
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 1, 2008