(NaturalNews) Anger and political unrest over escalating world food prices is becoming increasingly violent. Higher prices for the basic food commodities used by developing countries have produced clashes in Egypt and several African states. The government of Haiti has fallen from a political segue that started with a protest against food prices. An international food expert has warned of more fighting with no short-term relief in sight.
According to an article from the Washington Times, "World food prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine months and there are serious shortages of rice, wheat and corn," said Jacques Diouf, head of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at a conference in New Delhi. "There is a risk that this unrest will spread in countries where 50 to 60 percent of income goes to food."
Several people have been reported killed in disturbances as unrest in Haiti continues amid a doubling of the price of rice. A supermarket, several gas station marts and a government rice warehouse have been looted, according to the Washington Times.
The Prime Minister of Egypt has promised concessions to workers in the industrial city of Mahalla al-Kobra after days of rioting over rising food prices resulted in the death of one protestor. These clashes were described as the most serious anti-government demonstrations since riots in 1977 erupted over soaring bread prices.
Unrest has also been reported by the FAO in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique, Bolivia and Uzbekistan, among other countries.
The world's largest rice importer, the Philippines, has moved to head off protests following the global price doubling of rice. Higher rice prices would cut the country's gross domestic product by at least one percent this year according to Credit Suisse. Controls of domestic rice sales have been tightened and security of government storehouses has been strengthened. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo warned that anyone convicted of stealing rice would be jailed.
Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank, has said that close to three dozen countries face social unrest as a result of rising food and fuel prices. He sees the countries most at risk as having "no margin for survival".
The Washington Times reports the executive director of the U.N. World Food Program was in Washington recently making an urgent appeal for funds to compensate for rising prices. "We're asking for the world to really think through how we meet the emergency needs of the hungry," she told a reporter. She claimed her agency was $500 million short for the current fiscal year in meeting needs to relieve the global food and fuel crisis.
This crisis has been building for months spurred by a confluence of events. Among them are higher fuel prices that make the transport of food more expensive, and the rotation of farmers from food crops to biofuel. Food demand is also rising as the emerging populations in China, India and other Asian countries gain wealth with which to purchase better quality food containing higher levels of protein. Weather has also been a factor as drought has hit some major producers such as Australia. Commodity market speculators have helped sustain the higher prices. Although speculators are often discounted during extreme price moves, the fact that they seldom take delivery of the actual commodity prevents market prices from reflecting true market conditions.
At a conference in Dubai, John Holmes, the chief U.N. humanitarian official predicted that the situation would continue to produce political repercussions. "The security implications should not be underestimated, as food riots are already being reported across the globe," he said. "Current food prices are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity."
According to analysts quoted in the Washington Times, price increases are across the board, not just focused on a few crops or markets. A recent survey found that the price of staple food has risen by 80 percent since 2005, including a 40 percent increase this year. The real price of rice is at a 19 year high, with the price of wheat at a 28 year high.
Along with the conversion of huge segments of farm lands to biofuels, it is also believed that demographic trends, changing diets, energy prices, and climate changes predict higher food prices for years to come. It is not just the poor who will be pushed into extreme behavior.
Author not named, "Global food riots turn deadly", Washington Times, April 10, 2008.
Klarreich, Kathie, "Food Riots Lead to Haitian Meltdown", Time, April 14, 2008.
William Phaff, "Speculators and Soaring Food Prices", Herald Tribune, April 16, 2008.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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