Thursday, April 24, 2008

The End of Cheap Food?

High Cost of Commodities Will Continue to Hit Developing World Hardest

The Washington Independent
By Mary Kane 04/23/2008

A sharp spike in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other staples has sparked riots in Mexico and Egypt, marches by hungry children in Yemen and the spectre of starving people in Haiti turning to mud pies for sustenance. This growing unrest is forcing the global community to focus on the causes of higher food costs and what can be done. But it's also raising the troubling possibility that cheap prices for food may be gone for good, an economic relic of the the past.

That scenario would be disastrous for the progress of fighting poverty in poor countries - and it would threaten to halt a long period of rising living standards in the United States tied directly to the inexpensive cost of food.


Should prices stay high, the effect will be felt most keenly in developing countries, as the recent food riots have shown. Impoverished families now pay 50 percent to 80 percent of their incomes for food. Continuing high prices for oil and corn threaten to undo any gains in reducing poverty made over the past decade, Zoellick said.

Josette Sheeran, head of the U.N.'s World Food Program, told The Economist that the effects of higher food prices in poor countries will be devastating:

“For the middle classes, it means cutting out medical care. For those on $2 a day, it means cutting out meat and taking the children out of school. For those on $1 a day, it means cutting out meat and vegetables and eating only cereals. And for those on 50 cents a day, it means total disaster.”

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The promise of globalization was that it could lift living standards for everyone. But if the world's hungry still can't be fed because food is no longer cheap, it's an empty promise. Read The Whole Piece Here

Read more about food riots going on around the world here, here, & here

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