On food crisis :: 2008.04.21 21:48

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A border guard sells rice at a government subsidized outlet at Nawabganj in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 11, 2008. The price of food has skyrocketed around the world, leading to riots in some countries and fears of starvation in others, and Bangladesh, a desperately poor and overpopulated nation, is one of the most vulnerable, experts say. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)

ood seems to be the biggest threat to the world economy. There is talk about credit crisis, US recession, etc etc...but the rising food prices, coupled with food protectionism is worsening the vulnerability context of low-income countries.

Data shows t
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souce: www.theage.com.au

hat not since the early 1970s have we seen wheat & rice prices jump so dramatically. I think this rise in food prices affects African countries tremendously, not only because many are subsistence farmers, but also because some countries depend heavily on imports for staple foods, and they have less leverage in the world market. This is more so because the price of African tropical crops such as coffee, tea and fruit have not kept apace with that of basic staple foods.

According to a report I read recently about Eritrea, I found that it imports as much as 87% of its grans, but they can only cover their import bills with the help of donor aid. For countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that depend so much on imports, rising food prices (added by export bans and prohibitions of neighboring countries) increases their vulnerability- they may have to borrow more from donors, which in turn could escalate into debt crisis, hampering development. It's also difficult to raise production to curb down prices, because it takes time to get new production up and running, and agriculture production is contingent on other variables. The situation in rich countries like US and Europe is different because farmers benefit from government subsidies and their prices are much closer to those of the international market.

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Could this food crisis be paralleled with the 1970s oil shocks??

more data & analysis...
FT: food crisis
BBC: Rising world food prices Q&A
ODI blog: Simon Maxwell's commentary
ADB: Indian Economic Growth projectory
The Economist: The Silent Tsunami
Business Week: Squaeezed by Rising Food Costs
IHT: Biofuels getting blame...
Foreign Affairs: How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor
Guardian: EU set to scrap biofuel target...
IMF Survey: Coping with food price increases in Sub-Saharan Africa
Bloomberg: Commentary-Food Crisis Shows How Bad Policies Can Be Deadly
WFP: warning on DPRK
FAO: Interactive Hunger Map
Rights-Based Approach...UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food
Sustainable-Livelihoods Approach...IDS: Food Security

In the midst of the growing food crisis (+my final revision crisis too!!)... read an interesting article today about...

source: The Independent

Let them eat spuds: potatoes - the world's new staple?

As the Bangladeshi army is ordered to march on potatoes rather than rice, Andrew Buncombe investigates whether the humble tuber, so popular in the West, can really help alleviate the global food crisis

Monday, 21 April 2008

When the order came down from the top brass of Bangladesh's armed forces it sounded like a joke. Some of the soldiers and sailors who were told that from now on their daily rations would include increased servings of potatoes almost certainly did not take it seriously either.

But in a country where rice is overwhelmingly the staple dish, this was no laughing matter. With Bangladesh and the rest of Asia gripped by a rice crisis that has sent governments into panic, last Friday's announcement by the military that it was turning to the potato to supplement its troops' rations was for real. "The daily food menu now includes 125g of potato for each soldier irrespective of ranks," it said.

But it is not just in Bangladesh that the humble spud is being turned to for help. With world food prices soaring and with riots breaking out everywhere from Egypt to Indonesia, experts believe that increased use of potatoes could provide at least part of the solution. Easy to grow, quick to mature, requiring little water and with yields two to four times greater than that of wheat or rice, the potato is being cultivated more in an effort to ensure food security, agronomists say.

Such are the hopes being placed on the tuber that the UN named 2008 the International Year of the Potato. "As concern grows over the risk of food shortages and instability in dozens of low-income countries, global attention is turning to an age-old crop that could help ease the strain of food price inflation," said the world body.

"It is ideally suited to places where land is limited and labour is abundant, conditions that characterise much of the developing world. The potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop."

The emergence of the potato as a potential solution to global hunger comes amid mounting concern about the increased cost of food around the world. The price of rice, wheat and cereals has soared in recent months, as a result of the increasing price of oil, rising demand and uncertain supplies. Many countries have been forced to take special measures to protect their food suppplies. India, for instance, recently banned the export of rice except for its premium basmati.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, expressed his own concern about the mounting food prices at globalisation talks in Africa this weekend, saying they posed "a threat to the stability of many developing countries". Meanwhile, the UN's food envoy, Jean Ziegler, went much further, saying they were leading to a "silent mass murder" that he blamed on the West.