Friday, April 18, 2008

The Food Crisis

Reports of food shortages, food riots, and dwindling stockpiles have burst into the media in recent weeks, though warnings have been around for some time that diminishing farmland, climate change, and more recently the diversion of cropland to biofuels, would inevitably collide with growing populations, growing wealth, and the growth of grain intensive meat eating.

With consumption outstripping growth for six of the past seven years, grain stockpiles have fallen to their lowest levels since world wide record keeping began in 1960. In the United States, wheat stockpiles are at 60 year lows.

Rice has been particularly hard hit. Two years of severe drought in Australia, formerly a major rice exporter, have virtually eliminated the country's rice crop, while a plant disease has cut production in Vietnam. Since rice is the major source of food for many of the world's poor, these losses have had serious consequences.

Food riots have already toppled the government of Haiti. Shortages and price increases have caused unrest in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Peru, Haiti, Pakistan, Thailand, Burkino Faso, and Mauritania. The World Bank estimates that 33 countries face possible social unrest because of increasing food and energy prices. The U.N. proclaims that we are entering a new era of hunger.

The food and energy crises are unfolding in very similar ways; prices are rising in the world's richer countries while the poorer countries are experiencing shortages. Part of the problem comes from growing control over world food production by a handful of multinational corporations which is magnifying the problems in poorer countries. These corporations have chased indigenous peoples off their lands in South America, Indonesia and parts of the Far East, using tactics that range all the way up to murder. Jungle and rain forest land has been slashed and burned to make way for new plantations.

People in richer nations spend a smaller portion of their income on food so they are not as impacted by price rises. However they will not be immune from the problem indefinitely. The U.S. food supply is vulnerable in the event of disaster. Most of the nation's grain supply is shipped around the country on only two railroads, while little is stored in the event of disaster.

In both the cases of food and energy, the country has been asleep to the serious problems that loom ahead.


At 7:05 PM, Blogger adrian2514 said...

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At 9:48 PM, Blogger Vyacheslav said...

Hi Tim,

I agree with the points you stated in your article, food shortages will persist and haunt the world in the near future partially as a cause of the inevitable oil price spike.

However the oil crisis which can be held partially liable is strongly caused by the unadjusted value of the US Dollar. One of the ways to look at the dollar value is by comparing it to gold. For example the gold price during 1999 was around $11 USD, and during 2008 it spiked to $32USD. While payrolls are being held in the same dollar value as at the start of millennium, the real value of the dollar is in fact lower. The artificial hold of the dollar value is catching up to the USA when they trade oil. Hence farmers switching to growing Bio-Crop can be explained by the unnatural demand for it, if the USA economy was to halt adjusting the dollar value and a free market economy was to take over farmers would find it almost as profitable to stick to regular crop especially if they were to consider the depletion of their land caused by growing bio crop.

On another note Tim, I did greatly enjoy the compilation of your article, as well as its academic value. I would like to include it in the first month issue of my online magazine ( which will be going live in June 2008. If you permit me to use it please send me an email at I will make sure to properly reference the article and indicate you as the writer.

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At 4:21 AM, Blogger Marlon said...

This is something I did not know. I never knew that Countries were having riots over food and even overthrowing Governments because of it. I am curious as to what is causing these problems. Do you think that it is because Countries are exporting to much of their for profit, and that the Countries are then getting only what is left? Or is it something else. What can people do to help stop this world hunger causing epidemic?

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Part of the problem is that countries are exporting food even as their poor go hungry, but other problems play a part as well, such as climate change (drought in Australia), over use of marginal lands, and depletion of groundwater sources.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Trula said...

I didn't know that about the rice, that is really scary. Rice is a staple food the world over.

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hahaha i laugh every time I read something like this... it's not funny i know, i laugh because I wonder what will going to do when there's no food in anywhere ? or when the war for the resources starts ?...

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