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Page added on February 28, 2008

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The World’s Growing Food-Price Crisis

Add another item to the list of threats to world peace: Food.

Soaring prices of staples

…The problem is exacerbated by the fact that millions more people who were previously earning enough to feed their families can now no longer afford the food in their local stores, and are now swelling the ranks of those expecting relief from aid organizations. “We are seeing a new face of hunger,” the executive director of U.N.’s World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, told TIME on Tuesday. “People who were not in the urgent category are now moving into that category.” The organization currently feeds about 73 million people, including millions who get by on just 50 cents a day. After hosting a series of emergency meetings with international organizations and food experts this month at WFP’s Rome headquarters, Sheeran said the organization has concluded that food prices will remain high for years. She announced on Monday that the organization might have to cut its relief programs unless it raises an extra $500 million this year. “There is no way we can absorb a 25% price rise in one day and the volatility of the markets,” Sheeran said.

One factor driving up the cost of food is the rocketing price of oil, which raises agricultural costs of everything from fertilizer to transport and shipping. Like the oil price, the cost of food is responding, in part, to the burgeoning demand in China and India, where rising incomes allow people to eat bigger meals, and to buy meat far more frequently. That, in turn, has helped to squeeze the world’s supply of grain, since it takes about six pounds of animal feed to produce a pound of meat.

Then there is climate change: Harvests have been seriously disrupted by freak weather, including prolonged droughts in Australia and southern Africa, floods in West Africa, and deep frost in China and Europe. And the push to produce biofuels to replace hydrocarbons is also adding to the pressure on food supplies

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