Price of food situation gets worse

The price of food is the big developing story. Think global warming. Bold claim? Have a read.

 Here is a collection of recent stories on the subject from Reuters. First a UN representative on the subject <link>. 

“Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told Kurier am Sonntag that growth in biofuels, speculation on commodities markets and European Union export subsidies mean the West is responsible for mass starvation in poorer countries.”

The World Bank thinks they are here to stay. <link>

“Surging global food costs are not a temporary phenomenon and prices are likely to stay above 2004 levels until 2015 for most crops, the World Bank said.”

The Haitian, Philippino, Indonesian and Malaysian Governments are taking steps. 

“The Haitian government and the private sector of the impoverished Caribbean country announced an emergency plan on Saturday to bring down the price of rice by about 15 percent in a bid to stop food riots.” <link>

“Malaysia announced a $1.3 billion-plan on Saturday to boost food security by building stockpiles, raising rice output and reining in inflation.” <link>

“The Philippines will accelerate rice imports, it said on Tuesday, while Indonesia imposed controls over exports as Asian nations battle inflation and food security concerns caused by soaring global prices.” <link>

And my earlier post on the subject <link

This chart from a New York Times article on life satisfaction adds to the picture <link>. Apart from the fact that the conclusion is a statement-of-the-bleeding-obvious: “…life satisfaction is highest in the richest countries”, the associated chart (below) gives an idea of the potential extent of the food price problem and the number of people who will suffer.

The UN bloke quoted above talks about mass starvation in the “poorer countries”. When I highlighted the countries mentioned in the price of food coverage I’ve seen to date, there is a clear grouping in the $2,000-$4,000 GDP per capita band; Egypt, India, Vietnam, Indonesia. These aren’t the poorest countries in the world. (Note, the bottom scale is exponential). This is bad news. If countries this far up the chart are affected then it’s safe to say that all the countries below and in the same band are at risk or already suffering. This is a wide range of countries and a lot of people.

And then if you think the Mexico red dot ($8,000-$16,000 GDP per capita) is significant and not an outlying piece of data then only the richest few countries are going to be immune from the increase in the price of food. China is already a red dot in the $4,000-$8,000 band, so there is every reason to think that the problem is spreading up the scale.

None of this is reassuring news and definitely not a recipe for global stability.

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