They are calling it THE GREAT HUNGER OF 2008. The rapid rise in world prices for all basic food crops: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cooking oils is having a severe and potentially devastating effect. Economists and agriculture experts are calling the increases in world market prices “astounding.” The prices of sixty agricultural commodities traded on the world market increased 37 percent in 2007, 14 percent the year before. Corn prices are off the charts.
One cause is the diversion of food for fuel. Another cause is growing demand for meat as Latin American and Asian demand matches the West’s. It’s economically draining to feed crops to yet more cattle and pigs and poultry. A third cause is globalized agribusiness — countries once self-sufficient in food today are not. China and India are on that list. Finally, the climate’s not helping—drought in Australia and northcentral China, floods in the U.S. and South Asia. The 2007 cyclone in Bangladesh wiped out a good part of that nation’s rice crop.
THE GREAT HUNGER OF 2008 could easily became the GREAT FAMINE OF 2008. What could prevent that: when it comes to necessities – not just food, but water and fuel – a competitive market needs to be replaced by one that actually cooperates.