Food Crisis Driven by Speculators and Wild Fires, UN Meeting Hears

wheat field photo

Image credit: Kevin Lallier (Creative Commons)

Back in 2008, the UK's chief scientist warned that the food crisis would bite before climate change, and from the debates around food versus fuel to the impact of climate change on food prices, it's long been known that our economies are extremely vulnerable to disruptions to the farming and food distribution systems. So it is worrying (but not surprising) news that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is holding an emergency meeting today to discuss the recent spikes in food prices and the chaos they have caused. They're pointing some fingers too.The FAO has warned not long ago that food prices could rise as much as 45% in the coming decade, and predicted back in 2007 that rising prices were a recipe for riots. Now the Guardian reports that the FAO is meeting in Rome to formulate responses to riots in Mozambique and Russia's recent wheat export ban—the result of wild fires and an unprecedented heat wave:

"Food prices are rising around 15% a year in India and Nepal, and similarly in Latin America and China. US maize prices this week broke through the $5-a-bushel level for the first time since September 2008, fuelled by reports from US farmers of disappointing yields in the early stages of their harvests. The surge in the corn price also pushed up European wheat prices to a two-year high of €238 a tonne.

Elsewhere, the threat of civil unrest led Egypt this week to announce measures to increase food self-sufficiency to 70%. Partly as a result of food price rises, many middle eastern and other water-scarce countries have begun to invest heavily in farmland in Africa and elsewhere to guarantee supplies."

Beyond the impact of wildfires and drought on global harvests, the group will also hear that pension and hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds and large banks that speculate on commodity markets are also responsible for recent price volatility.

I guess this is all just one more argument for community-led efforts to develop food security. And maybe to keep the economic hit men in check too...

More on Food Security
The Incredible Vulnerability of Our Food System, and What Can be Done About It (Video)
Staple Food Prices to Rise 45% in Next Decade
How Will Food Security Be Affected By Climate Change, Energy Constraints and Water?

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