Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Global Food Crisis Gets Worse

As I have mentioned here before and even as recently as yesterday the cost of food has skyrocketed in the last year. There are a variety of reasons including crop failures related to drought and such but the biggest cause is diverting food to biofuels (more profit to be had) and the increasing cost of fuel. The insane war in Iraq has added dramatically to the cost of oil.

Now we have the World Food Programme, for the first time in its history, asking for money.
Faced with the dramatically spiralling costs of wheat, rice and corn, the World Food Programme has made an unprecedented appeal for at least $500m (£250m) to help it continue supplying food aid to 73 million needy people this year.
The WFP estimates that food prices rose by 55 per cent between June and the end of February, meaning it needed an extra $500m on top of the $2.9bn it had already budgeted for. However, prices have risen a further 20 per cent in the past three weeks, meaning the organisation's emergency shortfall could, in reality, be closer to $700m.

Rice last week jumped to a three-decade high, experiencing the same sort of spike that has already affected wheat, corn and soybeans. The price of these staple foods has been driven skywards by increased demand for food from the newly prospering parts of south and east Asia, damage to crops by natural disasters, and by the growing demand for biofuels. "It's a global phenomenon which is hitting the most vulnerable populations hard," Ms Sheeran said.

In Bangladesh, those on a dollar a day are dropping the protein element of their diet because they can only afford the basic staple rice. "And even those earning $2 a day are forced into coping strategies which could lead to a malnutrition crisis," Ms Sheeran said. "They are giving up health or educational needs to get a basic food budget."

It is the people eking out an existence on 50 cents per day that are suffering most, however, like people in some parts of El Salvador who have been forced to halve their nutritional intake. "We now have a situation where there's a lot of food on the shelves but people cannot afford it," Ms Sheeran said.

We, in the more prosperous countries, don't think about it on a daily basis but, as an example, a substantial percentage of the population across southern Africa eats mealy-meal, which is cooked corn meal. Sometimes they may get a few lentils or beans and on a rare occasion some meat to mix in but this is what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner if, in fact, they can even afford three meals a day. Just small increases in the cost of corn hit these people hard. Over a billion people in the world today eek out an existence on a dollar or less per day. This is another subject that needs to be on the agenda when we are talking about what the next American administration is going to be.
Let's not even discuss the trillions of dollars being wasted in Iraq... only a fraction of which could solve this problem globally and permanently.

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