The expanding population worldwide, combined with the expansion of biofuel programs in the US, as well as global warming devastating crops worldwide is putting a serious pinch on the world's food supply.
Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute
is predicting a high risk of food riots and thousands experiencing malnutrition in the less developed nations if something doesn't change soon.
Evidence that such occurrences are all ready underway can be witnessed in the recent tortilla riots in Mexico
, where 70,000 took to the streets in protest of the rising prices of the country's food staples. Recent pasta protests in Italy
and onion demonstrations in India
are just the start of the social instability to come unless there is a fundamental shift to boost production of these staple foods. According to the local media three shoppers died last month in a stampede at a supermarket in Chongqing, China that was offering cheap rapeseed oil.
The threat of instability prompted Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to make the fight against rising food prices one of his government’s top priorities. So far however, it seems to be a losing battle. Economic growth, estimated at 11.5% in the first nine months of 2007 has made Chinese consumers wealthier, while urbanization and globalization has changed their diet. In October the government announced pork prices were up more than 50%, vegetables 30% and cooking oil 34% compared with the year before.
Such increases can be seen here in the US
as well. Food manufacturers in an effort to disguise the ever increasing prices have instead opted to "downsize" the packaging of many of this country staples. Cereal boxes that once contained 16 oz now contain 12.5 oz. but are selling for the same price. Inflation in grocery aisles was up more in the first six months of 2007 than in all of 2006. U.S. food prices rose by 4.1 percent for the 12 months ending in June, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that the price of milk, eggs and other essentials in the American diet are actually rising by double digits.
That means food costs are experiencing the biggest annual percentage hike since 1980, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
With the push towards ethanol production which has us using our food sources for fuel, the crop failures
occurring world wide due in part to global warming, but also in part to the spread of the Ugg99 fungus
which will result in devastating crop failures if it continues it's migration across the globe could put an end to bread lines, as there will be no bread.
Canada, the second-biggest wheat producer after the U.S., harvested its smallest crop in five years, due to an unusually dry July, while production in the European Union may be down nearly 40% from last year after flooding rains followed long droughts. Growing global demand for biofuels is also eating up grain production, and boosting prices. Global inventories of wheat, which makes up one-fifth of the world's food intake, are expected to fall to their lowest levels in 26 years. If the world warms as expected over the coming decades, the terrible farming year of 2007 may be just the beginning.
The entire planet faces the very distinct possibility of barren food shelves, or if food is available, prices that will become out of reach for the average person.
For a year or two countries will be able to stabilize with the foods they have stockpiled. But the risk
comes in the next 12 to 24 months when those stockpiles run dry.
The countries that cannot afford to buy will be the losers, while those with huge foreign exchange reserves, like China, will bid up the world market.