By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
Since last autumn, “food security” has moved from an issue many in the world never or hardly ever thought about to become the number one issue in life.
Food security involves having and sustaining the supply of proper food sources for entire nations and populations.
If there is any doubt that food security is a big issue, here is something of a recap of recent related news:
–The government of the Philippines said on Sunday that food security would be the number one topic in the legislative session starting Monday. The Philippines is a huge rice consumer and almost all of that rice is imported. Unfortunately, almost all of the rice supplies to the Philippines have been restricted or stopped. The result has been unrest in the streets of Manila and throughout the Philippines. Can you imagine arresting people who refuse to stop their protests because they are hungry?
–Vietnam, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter, said it would cut exports by 22% this year, following similar moves by India and Egypt. Vietnam’s inflation hit an estimated 16.4 percent in the first quarter, the highest rate in 13 years, according to government figures. Food prices were a main component of the increase, rising 21.5 percent in the January-March period compared with the same months last year.
–Egypt last week said that an advisor to the Commerce Minister announced a cutback in rice exports. “We have taken this decision to provide for the needs of the local market,” Sayyed Abul Komsan, advisor to Commerce Minister Mohammed Rashid, said. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the army to start baking bread after deadly riots broke out in lines of people waiting for food.
–China this week is doubling taxes on fertilizer exports to ensure supplies for domestic farmers. China also announced that it will review land use issues nation wide. China’s government now says too much land has been turned over to industrialization and the nation of 1.3 billion people can no longer adequately feed itself without changes in policy and land use.
–Malaysia’s government said Saturday it would spend four billion ringgit (1.3 billion dollars) to increase food production and tackle price hikes as the country faces spiraling global oil and food costs.
–Last month the cost of food in Cambodia rose 24%. At this rate, the cost of food will almost double every four months. Yet pay is not rising at all: especially among the poor. Cambodia’s rural poor, who make up over 80 percent of the population, are particularly at risk from inflation.
–Cuba warned the World Trade Organization on Friday that the food security of developing countries is endangered for a variety of reasons, among them the rising cost of fuel.–Oil-rich Libya is discussing a deal to essentially rent a chunk of land-rich Ukraine on which it can grow its own wheat.
–Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was forced to step down last week because of violence linked to higher food costs, and U.N. and World Bank officials warn that more unrest is likely.
–France, sparked in part by unrest in Haiti, released $100 million (USD) in food aid to poorer nations.
–France’s action followed a release of $200 million in food aid by President Bush exactly one week ago today.
“A lot of countries are in trouble right now,” said Lester Brown, veteran environmentalist and president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute. “We’re seeing various efforts made by countries to ensure they have the food inputs they need.”
On Sundaysaid, “The problem of global food prices could mean seven lost years … for the Millennium Development Goals. We risk being set back to square one.”
While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pick at each other without much addressing American issues, in the rest of the world the big issue is quickly becoming: How will we feed ourselves?