Global Food Shortage, who are we kidding ? It’s your daily starbucks that could be causing it !

Just came back from New York, where every paper is talking about food shortage, and the scepter of the US having to hoard food. In a country where it is impossible to eat your way through one serving, and where the biggest battle is not against terrorism but against over eating, it is a difficult idea to comprehend. And what did Condolizza Rice mean when she said part of the problem is a change in the eating habits of a more prosperous India and China. Like the world’s problem are increasing because we are eating better or living better ? That is not true in any case, except for a mere 5% of India’s population. But lets get this right. There has ALWAYS been a world food shortage. Since I can remember in any case. People in the US may not have noticed it, and those of us living in India, China, Africa and elsewhere may choose to avert our eyes to what is staring us in the face, but we have always been surrounded by people that live in a constant state of malnutrition and starvation.
So what do we mean when we say that prices are rising and food riots are breaking out ? What we mean is that something has gone wrong in the supply chain. That somewhere people have started to profit more from the supply chain, and somewhere people are hoarding. THAT THE PRICE OF FOOD HAS GONE OUT OF THE RANGE OF MOST POOR PEOPLE. But who controls that price, and if it is market forces, who controls those market forces ? Certainly not the individual farmers.


I believe that there has been too much corporatization of agricultural resources all over the world over the last couple of decades. This is not just US bashing. It has happened with large scale farming everywhere, as food is grown, manufactured, packaged and distributed at the BEST AVAILABLE PRICE. Now in theory while the ‘best available price ‘ may be said to be a good thing for the local farmers in India (say) , where the farmer can invest the money back in the local economy, over 99% of that price does not go back to the farmer. Nor in so many cases does the term ‘local farmer’ apply any more. In large scale agriculture for produce, more and more land is owned by organizations that do not farm the land NOR do they live where the land exists – so nothing goes into the local economy.
So entire swathes of land in South America and elsewhere are cultivated for Cocoa – and then turned into Starbucks product to feed a country alarmingly addicted to caffeine. All of this agricultural land that could otherwise be feeding the local population. The same can now be said about Soya cultivation, or mass Wheat cultivation – which is transported, manufactured, manufactured, marketed, distributed at far more inflated prices back to the people who live where the wheat is grown in the first place ! I have been to a cereal manufacturing facility in the US (with a brand name known to be high in nutrition and ‘close to earth’) – I have refused to eat any cereals since then ! – but that is a different story.
The Global assumption is that suddenly the essential food supply in the last two years has gone down. Nothing like that has happened, or at least not reported. Have people started to suddenly eat more in the last two years ? Enough to cause food riots elsewhere ? Not that I have heard. So the only variable is the manipulation of the supply chain, and the problems must lie there.
Of course as more and more agricultural land is appropriated to feed the insatiable ‘appetite of the greedy’ – like cash crops for making ethanol – we will face severe problems. But the rich will continue to eat while the poor will feed off their crumbs. But then what’s different ???
More serious is the serious effect of Global Warming on the availability of Water for Agriculture. In India 70 % of Agriculture depends upon our ground water. And we are running out of that at an alarming rate. As the glaciers disappear and our rivers turn into alternates between flooding and drought, the world is in for a catastrophic time. And for all our attempts at Water harvesting, nothing will change unless we look at the way food is manufactured and distributed.
And at consumption patterns.
Why are we the only species, that cannot stop consuming ? So that those that can afford it eat too much, and those that cannot, starve.
Shekhar

29 Responses to “Global Food Shortage, who are we kidding ? It’s your daily starbucks that could be causing it !”

  1. Himanshu says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Thanks for your wonderful insights into the food issue. They say that 20% of the world consumes 80% of the food resources – and if more people start living like that, then fewer and fewer people who can’t afford much will get less and less as prices will keep going up. I totally agree that the food patterns haven’t drastically changed and the supply chain is being manipulated by middlemen. India has a surplus of most basic foods like wheat, rice etc. and the distribution has to be really improved and prices kept in check by the govt for it to reach the people in need. The ration stores can play an important part if the supply chain can be revamped- availability and pricing improved. We can even export the surplus grains to africa and other needy countries, all we need is proper distribution. And I belive the same will be the story the world over, but each country will have their own needs, own inflation, and their own govt. – and they need to start producing more themselves, not just rely on the UN for help and aid, as only food can solve the problem.
    As we live in a value driven economy the best foods will always been supplied to the countries that pay the best price, but other countries need to grow more and manage their food better – it needs a 3 pronged approach – production, price management and better distribution and all govt’s that’ll wake up to this would most likley do well.
    Best Regards,
    Himanshu

  2. sonya says:

    Shekhar , agree with you on your analysis on the man-madeness of the food shortages.
    Amartya Sen actually proved this in ‘Poverty and Famines’ with a million historical examples ;it was a Nobel Prize winning thesis.
    The current crisis , it appears, also has a lot to do with the sort of money that has gone into commodity futures. Hot money, and there is an amazing amount floating around, has moved out of traditional stock market investments into commodity markets. Its skewing supply and pushing prices up like crazy.
    But then again if you can sit in a gas guzzling luxury car and carp about Nano’s and environemental pollution, then whats to stop you
    ( as you toss your large leftovers into the dustbin) from passing judgement on South east asians eating a little bit more.

  3. kedar says:

    Quote by Woody Allen-
    Half of the world is starving…rest half is dieting…
    :))))))))

  4. justbe says:

    incidentally i heard sadguru jaggi vasudev speak about the aspect of food and overeating in US and humanity in general.
    He reasoned it out that it is all about food habits and the modern life style where both are inter-related. If one eats the right food(by listening primarily to the body and not primarily to the taste buds)…then the human body can actually healthily and energetically survive on 50% of the consumption of food what man is eating right now. This is because when man eats the right food he digests it well and then doesn’t need more; hence preventing utter wastage that happens through excreta of undigested food that is over-consumed.

  5. Ninad K Patil says:

    That’s a big problem, I am part of a family that was in agriculture since ages, but after my grandfather left the village to work for the government in the city, we became an consumer than producer, all these 24 years I have never been to a farm as a farmer.
    There need to be strong action to stop the transition from producer to consumer, today sitting in NY I get to know about a farmer Suicide in my village located near Mumbai. Farmers need to know the importance of what they are doing and should be paid equally for producing FOOD.I need to plan my road towards helping the Production.
    I cannot relate to the solution as to stop consuming. I think it would further discourage the food production. Today farmers must not get the sentiment of a reduction in the demand for food; it will encourage them to change their occupation.
    Thanks Shekhar, for relating me to this problem again.

  6. Sridhar Iyer says:

    Just when I think that the Bush administration has run out of shenanigans.. they come up with a new one.

  7. Amit Singh says:

    Abundance is in the heart and not anywhere else. Abundance is in the heart and not anywhere else. If you have abundance in the heart, you will have it everywhere else in the world.
    Abundance is the heart and nowhere else.
    Love is the only thing there.
    Amit Singh

  8. DQ says:

    Brilliant Shekhar
    .
    .
    Somewhere one must look into the water side too…
    and lets not forget the environment (air traffic) etc.
    Our generation will pass on a very terrible state of affairs to the future generations…
    Instead of so much invested on warfare, nuclear junk, and what not
    .
    .
    why cant countries with higher authority and technology, start looking into this factor….lead by taking charge …not by just carrying it out for themselves but make a group/body with capable countries to fight these situations than try to just rise economically/politically
    .
    .
    This cannot be handled by one country alone, all need to rise together, but I sadden with the thought that we humans…can we rise above?
    .
    .
    Can stronger countries be stronger by taking such issues in their hands as a team?
    .
    .
    can they look beyond financial benefits, for a better cause?
    Hugsss
    Acha laga aapko parke….na jaane kya kya karne ko dil kaare hai…pinjre se dekhti hu aapko…na jaane kaha kaha dil urr jaave hai…
    .
    .
    kuch kar jaane ko
    .
    .
    hugsss

  9. sanjay mittal says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Was nice to read your comments. Well you have hit the nail on th head. Corprotizaation of agriculture… I guess that is partly or maybe to blame. But Really, do we have a choice. Maybe we do. Small farms, attende by individuals, growing organic are a logical choice. The only damn thing is that there is very little money in it. I have a small two acre farm outside Delhi, and I can swear that it is impossible to make more than Rs15000 per year from it. Since I am not dependent on agriculture for a living, i have no problem. But the fact is billions are. SO incase the farmer has to get a better price for the produce, cost at the retail end goes up.
    This is a vicious cycle. I guess, we really need a way to cut out middlemen and where farmers can actually sell their produce directly to their customers in supermarket like ambience and get some decent profits.
    Well maybe this forum would ignite this debate

  10. Dear Shekhar,
    Thanks for this wonderful eye-opener.Bush administration is trying to cover up its grave folly of Iraq war that has displaced millions and increased the pollution levels in our atmosphere.
    However, even in India huge farmlands have been converted to Industrial areas thanks to SEZ…Ground water levels are dissapearing in Agricultural rich places like Haryana and Punjab because of the Coca-Cola factories…
    Whats going to happen to the World? The nature will survive but will the human population be able to is the main question!!!
    Best Regards,
    Anku

  11. Horst Vollmann says:

    Dear Shekhar:
    Honest, concerned and enlightened people, such as yourself, have for quite some time tried to shine the spotlight on this worldwide scourge of food supply manipulation. One of the worst culprits is the seed industry led by Monsanto, the giant corporation that has been cornering the world market by patenting their own genetically engineered seeds, such as the ones that resist herbicides, also manufactured by Monsanto. In one of its most shameful five-to-four decisions the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 allowed the filing of seed patents which played into the hands of corporations such as Monsanto to start taking control of the world’s food supply. This infamous corporation has become the world’s largest provider of genetically manipulated seeds and owns close to 700 biotechnological patents. Farmers who are buying Monsanto’s seeds must sign agreements in which they consent not to save the seeds produced after each harvest for re-planting. This means that farmers must buy new seed every year and the time honored custom to save seeds from season to season has been ended. Monsanto holds legal sway over farmers, farmers’ co-ops and anyone it suspects may have violated its patents of those genetically modified seeds. Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents. These agents make secret videotapes of farmers and infiltrate community meetings and work with well-paid informants. This is done in all the countries, Monsanto is selling seeds to, such as India, Indonesia, Africa etc. etc. Farmers call them the “seed police” knowing fully well that Monsanto would file lawsuits wherever infringements occur. It does not require an inordinate amount of fantasy to conjure up Orwellian images.
    Defenders of Monsanto’s shenanigans will use the argument that it is a blessing to have such corporations that engineer high yield seeds to meet the ever-increasing food demand, detractors will point to the dangers of genetic manipulations gone out of control. There is a reason why European countries are still trying to stem the tide of genetically modified food infiltrating their markets. They want to know a great deal more about health effects, a subject which so far is only poorly understood.
    This all corroborates your lament “that there has been too much corporatization of agricultural resources all over the world over the last couple of decades.” We may not want to resort to the good old US bashing but the truth of the matter is that the strings of control of the world food markets inevitably run to the corporate headquarters in the US, aided and abetted by its corrupt governments whose representatives are much more guided by self-interest than by a social and environmental conscience, attributes that are so sadly absent with the current US administration.
    Having said all this it brings me back to the subject of greed and the ever-growing chasm between the haves and havenots. Ultimately, we cannot survive as a species unless our uncontrolled drive to consume is brought in line with the harsh reality of some day having to sit at an empty table. There will have to come some defining moment when the leaders of our societies and the multi-national corporations have a collective epiphany that humanity’s moral justification for survival hinges on the premise that there is either food for everybody or for nobody.
    With kind regards
    Horst

  12. shekhar says:

    I think sanjay mittal has raised an interesting point. How can the small farmer be more in touch with the market and the market forces ? Can he sell his produce directly, or as close to directly, ito the consumer ? It is not as easy as it sounds to change a system that has been in force for decades, even if the system is imbalanced in terms of human equality and ecology. But new methods offered through the cell phone for example, where simple interactive internet transactions can be made is already changing some of this, is not Sanjay ?
    shekhar

  13. Himanshu says:

    Dear Horst,
    You have made some great points here but I must say that we all act in our self-interest, so do not blame the US govt. for acting that way. Agriculture is a business and everyone buys products from the open market like you and I do – some go to the farmer’s market and some go to Whole foods – I belive that the world has enough fertile land, water and fertilizers to grow enough food for decades – it just needs to be channelized. Look at India – we have a food surplus ranging into 40 to 60 million tonnes, but the poor don’t have money to buy it so they can’t get food and govt. decides to export it or release it in the open market.
    The real problem is that of wealth creation and for everyone to take their destiny in their own hands and that way they can afford anything, definitely the basics. It is the responsibility of everyone to get literate about capitalism, to understand how to make money right from selling wheat grain to the next level buyer, to selling a jet to the affluent class. The farmers and the very poor need to be ruthless and entrepreneurial about making money and secondly produce less children (so that they have more money to spend and less mouths to feed), think for themselves before everybody else. This quote from Neale Donald Walsh should be read and understood by everyone
    For centuries you have been taught that love-sponsored action arises out of the choice to be, do, and have whatever produces the highest good for another. Yet I tell you this: the highest choice is that which produces the highest good for you.
    Neale Donald Walsch
    Source: Conversations with God : An Uncommon Dialogue (Book 1)
    Once the world has more money, we will produce more as the food producers will get a better price for their products – there is no shortage of food, just that most of it is going to the affluent nations as the products can sell at the best price there, and those places are overstocked with food. Other countries need to start creating more wealth like India is doing right now, then the whole world food market will expand and production will follow suit as the business will become more and more lucrative. By the way just to give a statistic 10% of America is also challenged for food in a country flushed will food, so the issue is of wealth creation more than it is of food production. Atleast that’s what I feel.
    Regards,
    Himanshu

  14. shivani singh says:

    dear shekhar, very insightful post. got us all thinking…….its is so true that masses of land in the developing world is used to grow cash crops which ultimately cater to the selfish needs of the first world and feeds their addiction to things like coffee. and the irony is that not only are things like coffee and ethanol unnecessary for survival, they are actually harmful. caffeine for example messes up one’s brain chemistry and leads us toward more unnatural ways of living. i recently totally gave up coffee and have to say the first few mornings were painful but now i feel so much better. i don’t get a dopamine surge in the morning but at least i don’t feel knackered by afternoon and generally my brain is more balanced.
    the point i am trying to make is that when we deprive the less privileged citizens of this planet, is there some form of cosmic justice which leeds us to things which cause us more harm anyway?
    global warming for example: if we put a break on our consumption habits and stop breeding animals only to kill them i guess half the problem will be solved. albert einstein had seen this years ago when he said that the best thing mankind can do for itself is turn to vegetarinism.
    himanshu i like what you say about selfishness and greed driving us….reminds me of the eightfold yogic path of patanjali, wherein one should practise ‘yama’ and one of the branches of yama is nonpossessiveness (aparigraha): this teaches not to hoard because when we do so we are automatically saying that we do not faith in the universal powers to take care of us.
    shekhar, the answers are all there in our most ancient indian scriptures, if only we can choose to live by them.
    love, shivani

  15. Navin says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Your in-depth knowledge of world economics is admirable. You are right that neither Food Production has gone down drastically, nor the demand has gone up drastically to justify the current surge in Food prices. Somewhere, someone is hoarding.
    Like Sonya, I strongly suspect that Futures Trading in Food items is the culprit. Not just Food but prices of most commodities have shot through the roof ever since Futures Trading in these items caught on in the world. Look at Crude, Gold, Iron Ore & Steel etc. I Think excessive SPECULATION in these commodities have pushed up the prices beyond the reach of the poor. Usually the prices of commodities are cyclical in nature. But if the cycle does not turn soon, you are right, that a catastrophe is waiting to happen.
    I think the whole cycle of inflation started with an extra-ordinary surge in Real Estate Prices since middle of 2005. And if this cycle of inflation has to end then the prices of Real Estate will have to go down by at least 40-50% from current. Prices of everything else will follow.
    Cheers!
    Navin

  16. Horst Vollmann says:

    Dear Himanshu,
    it is always a challenge to respond to your blogs and there is no doubt that many of your comments are right on the mark. However, I cannot shed the uneasy feeling that you see in me the marxist wolf in capitalist sheep’s clothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am trying to take a realistic view of the facts as they exist rather than buying into the theory that all could be well if the disenfranchised masses would only understand to assert themselves, get a decent education, acquire some entrepreneurial finesse, kick ass and finally join the happy fraternity of the world’s affluent by having learned the simple art of making money. It is wishful thinking to expect the poor to create wealth for themselves without the haves trying to prevent such ill-conceived concepts. It is equally naive to expect the poor to produce less children without first addressing the need for birth control and its application in view of complex social structures with their resultant dictates and age-old customs.
    Our earth could emphatically not exist anymore if billions of people became affluent with all the demands and newly acquired habits such affluence engenders: driving cars, eating more meat and less grains, living in better homes, wearing suits instead of ethnic garb, in short bringing the concept of sustainability to new absurd heights. The earth’s resources would be depleted in a relatively short time, the environment could not withstand such onslaught. Thus, it returns us to the same subject of inequitable food distribution and our inability to stop rackets born out of greed. I do blame governments for failing to do so. I would rather see world hunger eradicated and the lot of the poor improved in incremental but meaningful steps. This effort should respect indigenous customs rather than ramming down their throats our concept of affluence as it has so sadly been demonstrated with the Inuit.
    Best regards
    Horst

  17. Ninad K Patil says:

    In ITC is trying to bridge the gap beetween farmers and consumers, http://www.echoupal.com/

  18. hello
    arent you being simplistic when you blame starbucks and the usa for this so called food crisis. i dont think there is any food crisis. yes, prices are high and that is only because of the price of oil being so ridiculously high. so instead of blaming the US as a whole, we should seriously look at what the gulf countries, venezuela, nigeria and other oil producing countries are doing with all their money. i read somewhere that iraq has parked 15 billion us dollars in a us bank from its oil revenues.
    is this money not the prime mover in this cycle of buying arms for petty wars,terrorism, poverty and all that.
    this is not going to end—no human intervention is big enough to make any difference in the way this universe runs–ask your friend mr deepak chopra–he knows.
    let’s just go along spreading only joy if we can. our spirituality–i mean the evolved hindu’s meaning of spirituality—is the only thing that can save this world.
    prices will come down, president bush will go and obama will be another disaster, china will get aggressive and implode and india will be even more divided in the next 5 years.
    dont you see the irony–you cursing the USA for the world’s problems. atleast the majority there live like humans with food and clothing and a decent standard of living. look at us— there right under your nose is the mns and raj thackeray spouting divisiveness, children being raped, 300 million without food, 400 million malnourished and goondas with low intellect and high emotionality as our leaders guiding our future—its laughable, this tag of democracy and all the fancy pseudo USA bashing we do in india. even the left uses their software, their clothes, and their intellectual property illegally everyday.poor pakistan–they were doing well under musharaff but now its the same old corrupt clique that is back to rule them.
    it is a crazy world, so please just make movies that have lovely songs, some romance, and lots of fun so that we can all live in that fantasy for a couple of hours before reality really bites our backsides again.
    incidentally i am 59, physically quite comfortable, happy, with great kids and a special doctor wife,and a lovely grand-daughter, so this cynicism is not a reaction of my personal unhappiness.
    you have been gifted by nature with a voice that can reach many. it would be nice if you used it for highlighting the poison that is spreading in our country in front of our eyes.
    regards
    uday
    bangalore

  19. Himanshu says:

    Dear Horst,
    I am by no means saying that you are a Marxist or a Socialist, just that I sometimes feel that you undermine the importance of wealth creation. The concepts like “food for all or no one” are very valuable at a govt. level but at an individual level they can only fill any individual with guilt, that I should not eat till everyone eats, and this can go on and on. We can say that one should not fly till everyone gets to fly etc. – that will be very socialistic and would have an adverse impact on the happiness of people who have done well. So the really poor person has to asset himself or herself and break free from the shackles – like we had Zamidari in India till 1947 which was outlawed and that freed up a lot of poor people and such sweeping steps can do wonders. We need to be able to provide better water and manure to the villages, plus if they learn to make money at their end it’ll be wonderful. The govt. can help by increasing the support price and farmers can support themselves by doing things other than agriculture. Like our finance minister says, do anything small like open a small wooden shop and sell matchboxes and candy at tiny profit. This can and will need to be done as any amount of funding from the top can’t sustain so many people without them taking care of themselves, and I believe things are changing for the better.
    Uday,
    I think you should really read this quote:
    We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves.
    Henri Frederic Amiel
    So no matter what you say there is something that is making you deeply discontent otherwise you won’t even write. The best way is to look inside and see how you can make yourself happy. How is the mns affecting your life personally, it isn’t – I went to Mumbai many times in the last few months and I felt no difference, all is great as usual. It all depends of how well we are living so if we focus on ourselves and make our lives good, everything around us starts looking good.
    Take Care,
    Himanshu

  20. metaphorme says:

    I agree with you, Horst & Kedar. In fact, I am writing an article soon about this very genetic engineering problem, and thanks for all the info on Monsanto, Horst. I will look further into this as I write my article.
    I am often humbled and excited at the synchronicity in my life. My writing ideas find find friends in cyber space.
    Why must one country control another through water or the food supply? It is wrong and unethical. We must spread the word. We will help to spread the word, Shekhar.
    I used to work in a natural resource program concerning groundwater. Many people (at least in the US) don’t understand where their water comes from. People need to understand the interconnections of the water cycle, and the finiteness of resources. Unfortunately, many of us are in a dream, and don’t worry until it is too late.
    I would encourage everyone to support independent media and journalists who care about these type of things. Could we get rid of Fox news?! Ha! I would love it.
    The good fight is on now, Shekhar, and thank you for all of your good work.
    Trying to catch up on all of your excellent posts!

  21. metaphorme says:

    @Himanshu – I understand what you’re saying but food production is all about politics. Food should be given to everyone, just like healthcare. It is true that some people are hungry in the US, but they are the minority. The bigger problem is the food that is eaten here. And the media image that constantly tells everyone they can be a Hollywood star. Right.
    A vicious cycle of hungry ghosts that can never be fed the right diet.
    But you are right, we all need to understand the parasite called capitalism. She is a queen bee that sucks everything out of us. She would like us forever naive and uneducated.
    We need to get rid of her.
    There is another way.
    We do not need to play the hand that was dealt us. We can play a new game. A fair game. A game that includes all of the global players. Can we not dream it? Or shall we be stuck in the rules of the queen?

  22. Amit Singh says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    I have been looking to write a script recently. It would be about a man’s search for enlightenment. It would be about how he finds it.
    I would love to talk with you more about it.
    Love
    Amit

  23. :) says:

    hi shekhar,
    its true that the ‘price of food has gone out of the range of the poor people’….
    basically,its serves as a war cry of millions of people who live below the poverty line to the powers that be…….what they WILL do is also much in evidence on the headlines of dailies, where we read about murders taking place and crime increasing to dangerous levels.( mr uday, incidentally, crime does’nt exist ONLY in india ! scan the international news and you maybe left with the himalayas as the only crime free zone !)
    back to the source of conflict………if the basic fuel (food) for brain function is denied indefinately to the poor who put in more physical labour than the affluent, then, science supports the subsequent tempers that rise and violence that follows…..add to that the depressing gaurantee that for them life WILL NEVER GET BETTER NO MATTER HOW MUCH WORK THEY DO as the cost of living will always be ten steps ahead of them !
    which of us honestly even HAVE their resilience…………………….?!
    on a lighter note………metaphorme , how did you conclude that the parasite of capitalism is female…….?! how chauvinistic of YOU ! ha ha!

  24. Amit says:

    I agree that US, Europe or anyone doesn’t have any moral authority over us but shouldn’t we for once think that does EARTH need so many people. And should so many people brought in this world when their existence and well being is questionable on the first day itself. Food crisis is a symptom not the problem itself and being short sighted as we always have been we will keep chasing the symptom without any actual cure.

  25. heather says:

    Amit is right in saying the food crisis is a symptom of something much bigger.
    Also, there is a drought in Australia that is several years old, that has virtually stopped all their rice agriculture.
    From a NY Times article:
    “…The Deniliquin mill [in Australia], the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December…”
    “…The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen…”
    “…Scientists and economists worry that the reallocation of scarce water resources — away from rice and other grains and toward more lucrative crops and livestock — threatens poor countries that import rice as a dietary staple.
    “The global agricultural crisis is threatening to become political, pitting the United States and other developed countries against the developing world over the need for affordable food versus the need for renewable energy. Many poorer nations worry that subsidies from rich countries to support biofuels, which turn food, like corn, into fuel, are pushing up the price of staples. The World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called on major agricultural nations to overhaul policies to avoid a social explosion from rising food prices.
    “With rice, which is not used to make biofuel, the problem is availability. Even in normal times, little of the world’s rice is actually exported — more than 90 percent is consumed in the countries where it is grown. In the last quarter-century, rice consumption has outpaced production, with global reserves plunging by half just since 2000. A plant disease is hurting harvests in Vietnam, reducing supply. And economic uncertainty has led producers to hoard rice and speculators and investors to see it as a lucrative or at least safe bet.
    “All these factors have made countries that buy rice on the global market vulnerable to extreme price swings.
    “Senegal and Haiti each import four-fifths of their rice, and both have faced mounting unrest as prices have increased. Police suppressed violent demonstrations in Dakar on March 30, and unrest has spread to other rice-dependent nations in West Africa, notably Ivory Coast. The Haitian president, René Préval, after a week of riots, announced subsidies for rice buyers on Saturday.
    “Scientists expect the problem to worsen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the United Nations, predicted last year that even slight warming would lower agricultural output in the tropics and subtropics.
    “Moderate warming could benefit crop and pasture yields in countries far from the Equator, like Canada and Russia. In fact, the net effect of moderate warming is likely to be higher total global food production in the next several decades.
    “But the scientists said the effect would be uneven, and enormous quantities of food would need to be shipped from areas farther from the Equator to feed the populations of often less-affluent countries closer to the Equator…”

  26. Tarang says:

    Hi
    Some of the common topics that we have chosen to blog about amaze me. Just this morning I commented on your entry about Priyanka Gandhi visiting her Dad’s killer in the prison.
    And now I come across this. Here is my entry: http://tarangkaushal.livejournal.com/2008/04/30/.
    Well, I know I have not written much in my entry, but the word ‘kidding’ is common, which was what I *truly* felt when I first heard about this issue.

  27. Deepak says:

    One interesting theory that I read some time back and really left me thinking ….
    “Those who have access to good food are mostly eating Salt and Sugar… While those who don’t are starving.”

  28. heather says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts about this particular symptom, in Italy, of overpopulation, unequal concentration of wealth, greed and selfishness?
    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/in-italy-a-billionaire-takes-out-trash/index.html

  29. Jayant says:

    It is so easy to blame corporations for everything. If we really don’t like corporates, walk your talk by staying away from them. No, what is responsible for increase in food prices is the government…
    One of the biggest problems is printing of money. This leads to inflation and hurts the poor people the most, by increasing food prices. There has never been free market in water and food. Not surprising is the fact that they are in shortage. For example, the stupid government of India capped the price of sugarcane last year. This meant that the farmers did not plant much sugarcane this year, leading to shortages. Now, sugar companies could make money from shortage of sugar, but the government will bring in price control here as well. So, the corporations will not plant their own sugarcane. The world is too complicated to left to be run by a bunch of those who had no courage but to look for a safe 9-to-5 job, the bureaucrats.
    Shekar, you are a great film-maker. Stick to that. I don’t understand film-making and avoid telling other what to do. If you really believe in what you write, try understanding the nuances of it, as you would expect me to understand the nuances of film-making if I commented on it.

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