(NaturalNews) The cost of staples from grains to meat to sugar continues to rise, raising fears of a global food crisis and ensuing political instability.
In 2008, high food prices led to riots in 25 different countries. The specter of another such crisis reared its head in September when 12 people were killed in food riots in Mozambique.
"The food riots in Mozambique can be repeated anywhere in the coming years," said Indian food analyst Devinder Sharma. "Unless the world encourages developing countries to become self-sufficient in food grains, the threat of impending food riots will remain hanging over nations."
Global meat prices are currently at a 20-year high, while soybean prices are at a 16-month high. Wheat prices have risen 57 percent over the last six months, and over the same period rice prices rose 45 percent and sugar prices rose 55 percent. In the last few weeks of October alone, wheat and corn prices surged 30 percent.
The price crunch has been worsened by a spate of recent climate-related crop failures worldwide, but the underlying causes are more long-term. The UN largely blames loss of arable land to urbanization, degradation and conversion to biofuels production.
"Worldwide, 5 million to 10 million hectares [12 million to 25 million acres] of agricultural land are being lost annually due to severe degradation and another 19.5 million are lost for industrial uses and urbanization," wrote UN special rapporteur Olivier de Schutter on the right to food in a recent report.
"But the pressure on land resulting from these factors has been boosted in recent years by policies favoring large-scale industrial plantations. According to the World Bank, more than one-third of large-scale land acquisitions are intended to produce agrofuels."
In addition, speculation by investors has artificially inflated food prices even beyond their already alarming highs, and is likely to continue doing so.
"A food crisis on the scale of two or three years ago is not imminent, but the underlying causes [of what happened then] are still there," said Chris Leather of Oxfam.