Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More News of Food Insecurity

The global price of rice -- staple food for half the world's population -- is climbing, and has been at record levels this week, double the price it was a year ago. Worldwide food insecurity is growing as a result. According to an article in (referenced by Krugman):
"China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, accounting for more than a third of global rice exports, curbed sales this year to protect domestic stockpiles. The World Bank in Washington says 33 nations from Mexico to Yemen may face 'social unrest' after food and energy costs increased for six consecutive years. ...

"Wheat traded in Chicago has more than tripled in three years, also threatening social stability. As many as seven people died from exhaustion or in fights while waiting in bread lines in Egypt, according to police reports. Pakistan sent troops to guard flour mills in January." (See: Rice jumps to record...)

The Bloomberg article cited a report from United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which described an appeal for funds from donor nations to try to help Haiti, where riots have already begun, and other trouble-spots. Unrest has already broken out in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal.

"'What we see in Haiti is what we’re seeing in many of our operations around the world – rising prices that mean less food for the hungry. A new face of hunger is emerging: even where food is available on the shelves, there are now more and more people who simply cannot afford it,' said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

"'Riots in Haiti underline the additional need for lifesaving food assistance,' Ms. Sheeran said. 'At this critical time, we need to stand with the people of Haiti and other countries hardest hit by rising food prices.'" (See: Surge in food prices could lead to increased unrest, warns senior UN aid official)

The WFP has a $500 million gap in available funding, "caused by the global spike in food and fuel prices, which have increased by an estimated 55 per cent since last June." The amount needed to help Haiti is $96 million, of which the agency has received only $12.4 million.

Update April 10. I wrote this yesterday. Today's NYT editorial The World Food Crisis summarizes the situation and concludes:

"Industrial nations are not generous, unfortunately. Overseas aid by rich countries fell 8.4 percent last year from 2006. Developed nations would have to increase their aid budgets by 35 percent over the next three years just to meet the commitments they made in 2005.

"They must not let this target slip. Continued growth of the middle class in China and India, the push for renewable fuels and anticipated damage to agricultural production caused by global warming mean that food prices are likely to stay high. Millions of people, mainly in developing countries, could need aid to avoid malnutrition. Rich countries’ energy policies helped create the problem. Now those countries should help solve it."

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