Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rubin: Security and Global Food Crisis

In two previous posts (Taliban?- What's That Got to Do with the Price of Bread? and More on Wheat, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Global Security) I discussed the impact of the global food crisis on security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When I first wrote about this in February, the global food shortage was only starting to attract media attention. Since then many articles and surveys have appeared, including a cover article in the Economist, which compared the impact of the crisis to a "silent tsunami." The U.N. Secretary-General has convened a special Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.

My colleague at the Center on International Cooperation, Alexander Evans, has published a briefing paper on Rising Food Prices. Summary Points:

  • Global food prices have risen 83 per cent over the last three years. The increases have been driven by high income growth in emerging economies (probably the single most significant factor),use of crops for biofuels, the relative inelasticity of supply, historically low stock levels and some speculative investment.
  • More recently, national concerns over inflation and prices have led some countries to reduce exports and others to try to build up stocks – creating a feedback loop that feeds on itself to drive prices up still further. In the medium to longer term, ‘scarcity trends’ – climate change, the cost of energy inputs, scarcity of land and water – could limit the supply-side response.
  • In the immediate term, the priority is to increase both the volume and the quality of humanitarian assistance available to poor people, including by moving away from in-kind food aid and towards cash transfers or voucher systems – although it is important to be clear that there are outstanding questions about how these social protection systems will work, and they should not be seen as a panacea. The issue of compensatory financing may also arise for some countries facing balance-of-payments difficulties.
  • n the longer term, the key challenge is to increase the supply of food: the World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50 per cent by 2030, as a result of rising affluence and growing world population. Achieving this challenge will require something close to a revolution, and a massive investment in agriculture in developing countries.
  •  If supply fails to keep pace with rising demand, then the question of ‘fair shares’ is likely to emerge as a significant global issue. Already, the effect of a burgeoning global middle class switching to diets with more meat and dairy products – both relatively inefficient in terms of grain use – has been to reduce the affordability of staple foods for poorer consumers.
The report is published by Chatham House.


Anonymous said...

Another reason foodprices are rising fast is the current Bush administration. Under this administration US federal debt has risen by some 45% in order to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But by doing so they have increased the amount of USD floating around in the world. And rising foodprices are a good example of ""too much money chasing too few goods"". This giant supply of USD is also depressing the value of the USD. (Supply and Demand !!!). The USD has lost ground to EVERY currency in the world in the last 8 years. And that's why foodprices in the US are rising faster than in e.g. Europe. Once asian countries come to their senses they will drop the peg to their currency and that's the moment things will really get ugly for the US as well. Therefore I expect foodriots to happen in the US in the coming years as well.

Anonymous said...

Raising 50% food production by 2030 (U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told world leaders) but the issue is how? Present economic pattern of the globe only helps promoting urban economics. Major Asian countries which were producing and exporting food grain to the world now intend producing and supplying computer and electronic goods. Most countries do not pay attention to promote agricultural product through research to add on value thus become profitable. Consequence of urban economics is excessive urbanization. Urban related economic growth thrusts agricultural land conversion to cities and building to accommodate urban population and industries. Over 20% of farm lands of developing countries have been converted to cities and buildings for the past decades and Over 50% of farmlands of villages (close to cities) got merged with cities. Food shortage is as war on world, could be disastrous to collapse world economics. Food is first priority for each consumer, expensive food would prune consumption of other product’s and services.

• World absolutely need to pay attention the importance of rural economics and emphasize on agriculture and add on value to it.
• Present education pattern only facilitates urbanization to grow urban population. Change in education pattern so to improve student’s taste towards agriculture and its research that includes animal farming.
• Agriculture need to be profitable for the farmers.
• More allocation of fund and land to agricultural sector.
• Tough international legislation to arrest speculative gambling on essential commodities.
• Bring back the incentives to farmers to produce more without incurring losses.
• World population will grow and land will be less for us so maximum endeavor to scientific research so can use most land and water available on earth that includes desert land and sea.
• Main cause of food shortage is growth pattern of developing countries. So bio fuel alone is not responsible. The real culprits are shortage and speculation hoarding. However, growing crop for fuel in land for food is not justified scientists and research professionals can work on sourcing from sea, river, desert or unused land plants or other means.

fchristie said...

The many reasons for the food crisis in the article are really the effects associated with the true cause of this and all other human generated chaos- our unchecked egoism.

We blame politicians, they blame us and each other, countries squabble and confer to implement inept solutions. What has worked so far? Is global hunger, depletion of natural resouces, greed, famine a new thing? How long will this strife continue before we begin to look inside ourselves for the solution to these problems?

We know we are selfish and we continue to look at the other guy or the other country to lay blame when the answer lies within us. We are steeped in egoism when all of nature requires altruism. Is the answer really this simple?

Here is a related article that explains further.

Anonymous said...

Global food crisis / meat consumption / livestock

According to various studies, 100 million tons of grain are being diverted to make biofuel this year, but over seven times as much (760 million tons) will be used to feed animals to produce meat. Depending on the type of animal, it takes up to, and sometimes more than, 10 plant calories to deliver 1 meat calorie. Meat consumption is therefore by far the biggest waste of grain globally.

Possible ways of future nutrition without livestock are presented by the FutureFood-project.

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Consequence of urban economics is excessive urbanization. Urban related economic growth thrusts agricultural land conversion to cities and building to accommodate urban population and industries.

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