Posted by: r.m. | January 22, 2008

food, protest, politics..

Food prices are – globally – at a record high. And they are here to stay. Record food prices are unlikely to ease in the foreseeable future, as high grain demand and low stocks mean the world remains vulnerable to possible food shocks. Abdolreza Abbassian, grains economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said “if there is the slightest weather problem next year in any major producing country or in any major developing country importer that also produces, such as China or India, wheat prices will soar again.”

“A new crisis is emerging, a global food catastrophe that will reach further and be more crippling than anything the world has ever seen. ”

If? If??

“Rising food inflation is not limited to grains; meat and dairy prices have also soared on rising demand and the increase cost of fodder.” (FAO)

The increase of soybeans — an increase of more than 50% in the past month and 125%  over the past year — led to 10,000 Indonesians demonstrating outside the presidential palace in Jakarta  (Protest: Monday January 21).  “For many Indonesians, a piece of tempeh, or fermented soyabean cake, is often their only source of protein, and last year soya products accounted for 22 per cent of Indonesians’ protein intake, excluding rice, according to government data.” For the poor, tempeh can account for up to 40% of their protein intake.

Why?

” World soyabean prices climbed to a record this week, partly because farmers in the US and Asia have instead been growing corn, palm oil and other crops to supply the biofuel industry. [Why biofuel? aH – now there’s a brilliant question!] Bad harvests in Latin America and rising Chinese demand have added to the price pressure.  “It’s finally a trade-off between filling stomachs and filling diesel tanks in cars and trucks,” says Ashok Gulati, director at the International Food Policy Research Institute.”

Bread protests also in South Africa, and in Pakistan, and in Kenya, and in Nicaragua, and in Mexico, and in Bahrain,  and in the Emirates, and in Russia, and in Egypt. Yes, poor Egypt. Egypt is the world’s second-largest importer of wheat (for more on Egypt and bread, see this article bythe NYT).

 And in Lebanon.

And in Gaza. No light. No bread.

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