Archive for the ‘food shortage’ Category

Food, Crops, Subsidies and Hunger in the Global Economy

November 17, 2008

This spring, disaster loomed in the global food market. Precipitous increases in the prices of staples like rice (up more than a hundred and fifty per cent in a few months) and maize provoked food riots, toppled governments, and threatened the lives of tens of millions. But the bursting of the commodity bubble eased those pressures, and food prices, while still high, have come well off the astronomical levels they hit in April. For Americans, the drop in commodity prices has put a few more bucks in people’s pockets; in much of the developing world, it may have saved many from actually starving. So did the global financial crisis solve the global food crisis?

By James Surowiecki
The New Yorker

Temporarily, perhaps. But the recent price drop doesn’t provide any long-term respite from the threat of food shortages or future price spikes. Nor has it reassured anyone about the health of the global agricultural system, which the crisis revealed as dangerously unstable. Four decades after the Green Revolution, and after waves of market reforms intended to transform agricultural production, we’re still having a hard time insuring that people simply get enough to eat, and we seem to be more vulnerable to supply shocks than ever.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Over the past two decades, countries around the world have moved away from their focus on “food security” and handed market forces a greater role in shaping agricultural policy. Before the nineteen-eighties, developing countries had so-called “agricultural marketing boards,” which would buy commodities from farmers at fixed prices (prices high enough to keep farmers farming), and then store them in strategic reserves that could be used in the event of bad harvests or soaring import prices. But in the eighties and nineties, often as part of structural-adjustment programs imposed by the I.M.F. or the World Bank, many marketing boards were eliminated or cut back, and grain reserves, deemed inefficient and unnecessary, were sold off. In the same way, structural-adjustment programs often did away with government investment in and subsidies to agriculture—most notably, subsidies for things like fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district ... 
People try to catch fish at flooded rice fields in Me Linh district in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. The floods have ruined many of the area’s crops.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

The logic behind these reforms was simple: the market would allocate resources more efficiently than government, leading to greater productivity. Farmers, instead of growing subsidized maize and wheat at high cost, could concentrate on cash crops, like cashews and chocolate, and use the money they made to buy staple foods. If a country couldn’t compete in the global economy, production would migrate to countries that could. It was also assumed that, once governments stepped out of the way, private investment would flood into agriculture, boosting performance. And international aid seemed a more efficient way of relieving food crises than relying on countries to maintain surpluses and food-security programs, which are wasteful and costly.

This “marketization” of agriculture has not, to be sure, been fully carried through. Subsidies are still endemic in rich countries and poor, while developing countries often place tariffs on imported food, which benefit their farmers but drive up prices for consumers. And in extreme circumstances countries restrict exports, hoarding food for their own citizens.

Related:
Vietnam to grow genetically modified crops

Read the rest:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/11/2
4/081124ta_talk_surowiecki

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U.N. agencies weigh response to food crisis

April 28, 2008

GENEVA (Reuters) – Leading figures from the United Nations met in Switzerland on Monday to chart a solution to dramatic food price increases that have caused hunger, riots and hoarding in poor countries around the world.
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Vietnam acted to quell panic over rice supplies on Monday, banning speculation in the market after a “chaotic” buying binge in the Southeast Asian nation highlighted growing global fears about food security. 
A Vietnamese rice paddy worker….

The move by the world’s second-biggest rice exporter came as protests continued in some states in Africa over soaring costs for food and fuel which aid experts say threaten to push 100 million people worldwide into hunger.

Against this backdrop, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gathered together the heads of 27 international agencies including the World Bank, World Food Programme and World Trade Organisation to coordinate a response.

Officials familiar with the closed-door session said the main priority was to ensure that food aid reached those desperately affected by surging prices of wheat, rice, dairy products and other dietary staples.

Ban, who has described rising food prices as a “global crisis” and urged world leaders to discuss ways to improve food distribution systems and production, will address the press in the Swiss capital Berne on Tuesday.

Ban Ki-moon
반기문/潘基文
Ban Ki-moon

Experts have linked the problems to factors including drought in Australia, higher fuel costs, the use of crops for biofuels and speculation on global commodity markets.

U.S. President George W. Bush is considering “what other aspects need to be taken care of” to help ease the crisis after announcing a $200 million increase in food aid earlier this month, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

“He’s really concerned about the humanitarian condition around the world,” she told reporters on Monday.

Meanwhile world aid groups continue to reel from the jump in food prices. World Vision, one of the globe’s largest humanitarian organizations, said it may have cut 1.5 million people, or 23 percent, from its aid program because of a strained budget.

“Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid,” said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. “At least a third of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080428/ts_nm/food_dc;_
ylt=AvuHqABELenB0dee53uVu.is0NUE

Global Food Crisis: Hungry in Egypt

April 21, 2008

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post
Monday, April 21, 2008; Page A15

….For more than half a century, the Arab world’s most populous country has been run by a military-backed dictatorship that has supplied its millions of poor with subsidized bread. Consequently, Egypt consumes more bread per capita than France, and the only time the regime’s power was seriously challenged came in 1977, when Anwar Sadat‘s attempt to cut bread subsidies provoked bloody riots.

Thirty years later, Egypt still has subsidized bread but also a free market, which siphons much of the bread away through corruption. As global prices have soared in the past year, cheap bread has been disappearing from Egyptian shops, and free-market prices have risen 48 percent. The predictable result came on April 6, when workers at the country’s largest textile factory, in the city of Mahalla el-Kubra, attempted to strike, only to be blocked by a massive deployment of security forces. Angry crowds took to the streets for two days. Schools and shops were burned, a huge billboard of President Hosni Mubarak was torn down and at least two people were killed when police opened fire.

Mubarak responded to the trouble the way the regime always has. His prime minister and a host of other officials rushed to the smoldering city to purchase peace. The textile workers were promised a month’s bonus pay and new health-care facilities for their town. Mubarak ordered the army to begin baking and distributing more bread and lifted tariffs on some food imports. Meanwhile, his prosecutors brought charges against some 150 people blamed for the unrest….

Egyptians buy government subsidized bread from a bakery in Cairo, ...
Egyptians buy government subsidized bread from a bakery in Cairo, Egypt Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Egypt’s government is struggling to contain a political crisis sparked by rising world food prices. Violent clashes have broken out at long lines for subsidized bread, and the president, worried about unrest, has ordered the army to step in to provide more.(AP Photo/Hossam Ali)

Read it all:
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/20/
AR2008042001752.html

Rice Grain Could Change Your Life by Badong
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RICE!

France to double aid for food crisis

April 19, 2008

PARIS (AFP) – France will double its emergency food aid this year, spending 60 million euros (100 million dollars), President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday, as he warned the world’s food crisis was breeding unrest.
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“We must act urgently to strengthen food security at a time when 37 countries are going through a very serious food crisis,” Sarkozy told a major meeting on climate change in Paris.

A French farmer at work near Gaillargues. France will double ...
A French farmer at work near Gaillargues. France will double its food aid this year, spending 60 million euros (100 million dollars) as part of its response to the world crisis over soaring food prices, President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced.(AFP/File/Dominique Faget)

“We cannot remain indifferent to the unrest among those people who, in the developing countries, can no longer satisfy their hunger.”

Soaring prices for basic grains — rice, wheat, soybean and corn — have provoked protests and rioting in at least half a dozen developing countries in past months, and has toppled the government of one.

Last weekend, Haiti‘s premier Jacques-Edouard Alexis was ousted in a no-confidence vote after more than a week of violent demonstrations….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080418/bs_afp/francepovertyinflationaid_
080418095730

Central Vietnam facing food shortage

August 17, 2007

 Based Upon Reports from Communist Vietnam
August 17, 2007

Some one million people face food shortages in central Vietnam until the rice harvest early next year after the worst floods in decades, government officials have said.

74 people have died and nine are missing and feared dead after a storm dumped heavy rain during the first ten days of August in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces.

Ha Tinh has reported the worst floods in 50 years with 29 deaths, 14 of them children.

Residents in the neighbouring province of Quang Binh, where 15 died, have also lost all food stocks and fresh rice supplies.

Storms and typhoons often strike Vietnam from August to October.

Last year, ten storms hit the country and about 500 people were killed by floods and landslides.