(NaturalNews) Rising energy prices and a shift to Western consumption patterns will continue to push global food prices higher in the coming decade, according to the annual agricultural outlook issued by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Higher prices of crude oil are set to increase food prices, particularly in countries that import large amounts of food or those, such as the United States, that rely heavily on petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, increasing affluence and the adoption of a Western diet in Third World countries is expected to turn more land toward cultivation of animal feed and away from cultivation of staples.
"As incomes rise, diets are expected to slowly diversify away from staple foods towards increased meats and processed foods," the report reads.
Grain prices are now projected to rise 15 to 40 percent relative to the 1997-2006 average, in comparison with last year's forecast of only a 10 to 20 percent increase. The price of vegetable oils is forecast to rise 40 percent, in contrast to last year's forecast of 30 percent. And while last year's report actually predicted a drop in meat and dairy prices, the new report has reversed that projection and anticipates a price increase.
All projected price increases are adjusted for inflation.
Although prices are expected to continue climbing, the report says they will probably not reach the same levels as during the food crisis of 2008, which sparked riots around the world. Nonetheless, it says, "further episodes of strong price fluctuations ... cannot be ruled out, nor can future short-lived crises."
The report further warned that rising prices may lead food-importing nations such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia to feel "strategically vulnerable," leading to a "race for [food] self-sufficiency." Such anxiety has already led to land grabs in poorer countries, contributing to riots and civil unrest in those nations.