The years 2007–2008 saw dramatic rises in world food prices, creating a global crisis and causing political and economical instability and social unrest in both poor and developed nations.
Systemic causes for the world-wide increases in food prices continue to be the subject of debate. Initial causes of the late 2006 price spikes included unseasonable droughts in grain producing nations and rising oil prices. Oil prices further heightened the costs of fertilizers, food transport, and industrial agriculture. Other causes may be the increasing use of biofuels in developed countries (see also food vs fuel), and an increasing demand for a more varied diet (especially meat) across the expanding middle-class populations of Asia. These factors, coupled with falling world food stockpiles have all contributed to the dramatic world-wide rise in food prices. Long-term causes remain a topic of debate. These may include structural changes in trade and agricultural production, agricultural price supports and subsidies in developed nations, diversions of food commodities to high input foods and fuel, commodity market speculation, and climate change.
Drastic price increases
Between the start of 2006 and 2008, the average world price for rice rose by 217%, wheat by 136%, maize by 125% and soybeans by 107%. In late April 2008, rice
prices hit 24 cents
, twice the price that it was seven months earlier.
Several factors contributed to the rising food price. Analysts attributed the price rises to a perfect storm
of poor harvests in various parts of the world, increasing biofuel
usage, lower food reserves, the US Federal Reserve decreasing interest rates so that money is no longer a means to preserve wealth over the long term (people invest in food commodities which causes an increase in demand and therefore price), growing consumer demand in Asia, oil price rises, and changes to the world economy
. Agricultural subsidies in developed nations are another long-term factor contributing to high global food prices.
Impact of food for fuel
One systemic cause for the price rise is held to be the diversion of food crops (maize
in particular) for making first-generation biofuels
. An estimated 100 million tonnes of grain per year are being redirected from food to fuel. (Total worldwide grain production for 2007 was just over 2000 million tonnes.) As farmers devoted larger parts of their crops to fuel production than in previous years, land and resources available for food production were reduced correspondingly. This has resulted in less food available for human consumption, especially in developing
and least developed countries
, where a family's daily allowances for food purchases are extremely limited. The crisis can be seen, in a sense, to dichotomize rich and poor nations
, since, for example, filling a tank of an average car with biofuel
, amounts to as much maize
(Africa's principal food staple) as an African person consumes in an entire year.
Since late 2007, "Agflation," caused by the increased diversion of maize harvests to biofuels, the tying of maize to rising oil prices by commodity traders, and a resulting price rise, has caused market substitution, with price rises cascading through other commodities: first wheat and soy prices, then later rice, soy oil, and a variety of cooking oils.
Brazil, the world's second largest producer of ethanol after the U.S., is considered to have the world's first sustainable biofuels economy and its government claims Brazil's sugar cane based ethanol industry has not contributed to the 2008 food crises. A World Bank policy research working paper released in July 2008 concluded that "...large increases in biofuels production in the United States and Europe are the main reason behind the steep rise in global food prices", and also stated that "Brazil's sugar-based ethanol did not push food prices appreciably higher". A economic assessment report also published in July 2008 by the OECD agrees with the World Bank report regarding the negative effects of subsidies and trade restrictions, but found that the impact of biofuels on food prices are much smaller.
A report released by Oxfam in June 2008 criticized biofuel policies of rich countries and concluded that from all biofuels available in the market, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is "far from perfect" but it is the most favorable biofuel in the world in term of cost and GHG balance. The report discusses some existing problems and potential risks, and asks the Brazilian government for caution to avoid jeopardazing its environmental and social sustainability. The report also says that: “Rich countries spent up to $15 billion last year supporting biofuels while blocking cheaper Brazilian ethanol, which is far less damaging for global food security." (See Ethanol fuel in Brazil)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the rise in food prices is due to poor agricultural policies and changing eating habits in developing nations, not biofuels as some critics claim. On April 29, 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush declared during a press conference that "85 percent of the world's food prices are caused by weather, increased demand and energy prices", and recognized that "15 percent has been caused by ethanol". On July 4, 2008, The Guardian reported that a leaked world bank report estimated the rise in food prices caused by biofuels to be 75%.
Second- and third-generation biofuels (such as cellulosic ethanol and algae fuel, respectively) may someday ease the competition with food crops, as non food energy crops can grow on marginal lands unsuited for food crops, but these advanced biofuels require further development of farming practices and refining technology; in contrast, ethanol from maize uses mature technology and the maize crop can be shifted between food and fuel use quickly.
World population growth
Although some commentators have argued that this food crisis stems from unprecedented global population growth, others point out that world population growth rates have dropped dramatically since the 1980s, and grain availability has continued to outpace population . Aggregate food production per capita has risen from the 1960s to the 1980s but slightly declined since, at least for cereals. World population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to an estimated 6.6 billion today. In Mexico, for example, population has grown from 13.6 million in 1900 to 107 million in 2007. Bureau figures show that the U.S. population grew by 2.8 million between July 1, 2004, and July 1, 2005.
The actual annual growth in the number of humans fell from its peak of 87 million per annum in the late 1980s, to a low of 75 million per annum in 2002, at which it stabilised and has started to slowly rise again to 77 million per annum in 2007. The world's population, on its current growth trajectory, is expected to reach nearly 9 billion by the year 2042.
April 2008 analyses from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization maintained that while food consumption of grains has gone up one percent since 2006, most of this increase has gone to developed countries.
Increased demand for more resource intensive food
The head of the International Food Policy Research Institute
, stated in 2008 that the gradual change in diet among newly prosperous populations is the most important factor underpinning the rise in global food prices. Where food utilization has increased, it has largely been in processed ("value added
") foods, sold in developing and developed nations. Total grain utilization growth since 2006 (up three precent, over the 2000-2006 per annum average of two percent) has been greatest in non-food usage, especially in feed and biofuels. One kilogram of beef requires seven kilograms of feed grain. These reports, therefore, conclude that usage in industrial, feed, and input intensive foods, not population growth among poor consumers of simple grains, has contributed to the price increases.
2005/1990 ratios of per capita consumption
|| Nigeria |
|| 1.0 |
|| 1.0 |
|| 1.3 |
|| 0.8 |
|| 1.1 |
|| 1.3 |
Although the vast majority of the population in Asia remains rural and poor, the growth of the middle class in the region has been dramatic, and is projected to continue to be so. For comparison, in 1990, the middle class grew by 9.7 percent in India and 8.6 percent in China, but by 2007 the growth rate was nearly 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively. The corresponding increase in affluence has also brought with it a change in lifestyle and eating habits, particularly a demand for greater variety and more meat in the diet, leading to greater demand for agricultural resources. This demand exacerbates dramatic increases in commodity prices, such as oil.
Another issue is that rising affluence in India and China is reducing the `shock absorber' of poor people who are forced to reduce their resource consumption when food prices rise (e.g. by switching back from meat to vegetarian diet). This has reduced price elasticity and caused a sharp rise in food prices during some shortages. In the media, China is often mentioned as one of the reasons for the increase in world food prices, but China has to a large extent been able to meet its own demand for food. It is, however, uncertain whether this will continue to be the case in the future.
Impact of petroleum price increases
The rise in the price of oil
has heightened the
costs of fertilizers
(in some instances doubling the price within the six months before April, 2008), the majority of which require petroleum
or natural gas
to manufacture. Although the main fossil fuel input for fertilizer comes from natural gas
to generate hydrogen for the Haber-Bosch process
(see: Ammonia production
), natural gas has its own supply problems similar to those for oil. Because natural gas can substitute for petroleum in some uses (for example, natural gas liquids
and electricity generation
), increasing prices for petroleum lead to increasing prices for natural gas, and thus for fertilizer.
Costs for fertilizer raw materials other than oil, such as potash, have themselves been increasing as increased production of staples increases demand. This is causing a boom (with associated volatility) in agriculture stocks.
Oil also provides most energy for mechanized food production and transport. Higher prices for liquid fuels from petroleum increase the demand for biofuels, which may result in diverting some crops from food to energy. Even though per-capita petroleum consumption among the world's poorest people is very low, what petroleum the poor do consume is disproportionately in the form of fossil fuel inputs to the food they eat, especially to any food imported from industrial agriculture powerhouses such as the United States. People who were already living at a subsistence level when oil was relatively cheap are extremely vulnerable when oil prices rise, and may simply lack the means to afford enough daily food calories to survive. Some farmers have mitigated the effect of oil on mechanized agriculture by actually using biofuels to power their farm equipment, such as tractors.
Declining world food stockpiles
In the past, nations tended to keep more sizable food stockpiles, but more recently, due to the pace at which food could be grown and the ease with which it could be imported, less emphasis was placed on keeping high stockpiles. Therefore, for example, in February 2008 wheat stockpiles hit a 60-year low in the United States (see also Rice shortage
Destabilizing influences, including indiscriminate lending and real estate speculation, led to a crisis in January 2008
, and eroded investment in food commodities. The United States, specifically, has been facing an economic crisis
which is likely to lead to recession.
Financial speculation in commodity futures following the collapse of the financial derivatives markets has contributed to the crisis due to a "commodities super-cycle." Financial speculators seeking quick returns have removed trillions of dollars from equities and mortgage bonds, some of which has been invested into food and raw materials. That American commodities speculation could have a worldwide impact on food prices is reflected in the globalization of food production. It represents the concentration of wealth throughout the world which Frances Moore Lappé equates to a weakening in fundamental democracy. In a recent article for The Nation, she suggests that there is no food shortage but that "as long as food is merely a commodity in societies that don't protect people's right to participate in the market, and as long as farming is left vulnerable to consolidated power off the farm, many will go hungry, farmers among them--no matter how big the harvests.
Impact of trade liberalization
Some theorists, such as Martin Khor
of the Third World Network
, point out that many developing nations have gone from being food independent to being net food importing economies since the 1970s and 1980s International Monetary Fund
(and later the World Trade Organisation
's Agreement on Agriculture
) free market economics
directives to debtor nations. In opening developing countries to developed world
food imports which continue to be subsidised by Western governments, developing nations
have become dependent upon food imports which are cheaper than those which can be produced by local smallholders agriculture, even in the poorest regions of the world.
While developed countries pressured the developing world to abolish subsidies in the interest of trade liberalization, rich countries largely kept subsidies in place for their own farmers. In recent years United States government subsidies have been added which pushed production toward biofuel rather than food.
Biofuel subsidies in the US and the EU
The World Bank
lists the effect of biofuels as an important contributor to higher food prices.The FAO
/ECMB has reported that world land usage for agriculture has declined since the 1980s, and subsidies outside the United States and EU have dropped since the year 2004, leaving supply, while sufficient to meet 2004 needs, vulnerable when the United States began converting agricultural commodities to biofuels
. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, global wheat imports and stocks have decreased, domestic consumption has stagnated, and world wheat production has decreased from 2006 to 2008.
In the United States, government subsidies for ethanol production have prompted many farmers to switch to production for biofuel. Maize is the primary crop used for the production of ethanol, with the United States being the biggest producer of maize ethanol. As a result, 23 percent of United States maize crops were being used for ethanol in 2006-2007 (up from 6 percent in 2005-2006), and the USDA expects the United States to use 81 million tonnes of maize for ethanol production in the 2007-2008 season, up 37 percent. This not only diverts grains from food, but it diverts agricultural land from food production.
Nevertheless, supporters of ethanol claim that using corn for ethanol is not responsible for the worst food riots in the world, many of which have been caused by the price of rice and oil, which are not affected by biofuel use but rather by supply and demand.
However, a World Bank policy research working paper released in July 2008 says that biofuels have raised food prices between 70 to 75 percent. The study found that higher oil prices and a weak dollar explain 25-30% of total price rise. The "month-by-month" five year analysis disputes that increases in global grain consumption and droughts were responsible for price increases, reporting that this had had only a marginal impact and instead argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices. The paper concludes that increased production of biofuels in the US and EU were supported by subsidies and tariffs on imports, and considers that without these policies, price increases would have been smaller. This research also concluded that Brazil's sugar cane based ethanol has not raised sugar prices significantly, and suggest to remove tariffs on ethanol imports by both the US and EU, to allow more efficient producers such as Brazil and other developing countries to produce ethanol profitably for export to meet the mandates in the EU and the US.
The Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) published a rebuttal based on the version leaked before the formal release of the World Bank's paper. The RFA critique considers that the analysis is highly subjective and that the author "estimates the impact of global food prices from the weak dollar and the direct and indirect effect of high petroleum prices and attributes everything else to biofuels.
An economic assessment report also published in July 2008 by the OECD agrees with the World Bank report regarding the negative effects of subsidies and trade restrictions, but found that the impact of biofuels on food prices are much smaller. The OECD study is also critical of the limited reduction of GHG emissions achieved from from biofuels produced in Europe and North America, concluding that the current biofuel support policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuel by no more than 0.8 percent by 2015, while Brazilian ethanol from sugar cane reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent compared to fossil fuels. The assessment calls on governments for more open markets in biofuels and feedstocks in order to improve efficiency and lower costs.
According to the New York Times
on April 9, 2008, the United States government pays farmers to idle their cropland under a conservation program. This policy reached a peak of idled in 2007, that is 8% of cropland in United States, representing a total area bigger than the state of New York.
The global food crisis has renewed calls for removal of distorting agricultural subsidies in developed countries.. Support to farmers in OECD countries totals 280 billion USD annually, which compares to official development assistance of just 80 billion USD in 2004, and farm support distorts food prices leading to higher global food prices, according to OECD estimates. The US Farm Bill brought in by the Bush Administration in 2002 increased agricultural subsidies by 80% and cost the US taxpayer 190 billion USD.. In 2003, the EU agreed to extend the Common Agricultural Policy
until 2013. Former UNDP Administrator Malloch Brown renewed calls for reform of the farm subsidies such as the CAP.
Distorted global rice market
Japan is forced to import more than 767,000 tons of rice annually from the United States, Thailand, and other countries due to WTO rules. This is despite the fact that Japan produces over 100% of domestic rice consumption needs with 11 million tonnes produced in 2005 while 8.7 million tonnes were consumed in 2003-2004 period. Japan is not allowed to re-export this rice to other countries without approval. This rice is generally left to rot and then used for animal feed. Under pressure, the United States and Japan are poised to strike a deal to remove such restrictions. It is expected 1.5 million tonnes of high-grade American rice will enter the market soon.
Crop shortfalls from natural disasters
Several distinct weather- and climate-related incidents have caused disruptions in crop production. Perhaps the most influential is the extended drought in Australia
, in particular the fertile Murray-Darling Basin
, which produces large amounts of wheat and rice. The drought
has caused the annual rice harvest to fall by as much as 98% from pre-drought levels. Australia is historically the second-largest exporter of wheat after the United States, producing up to 25 million tons in a good year, the vast majority for export. However, the 2006 harvest was 9.8 million. Other events that have negatively affected the price of food include the 2006 heat wave
's San Joaquin Valley
, which killed large numbers of farm animals, and unseasonable 2008 rains in Kerala
, India, which destroyed swathes of grain. Scientists have stated that several of these incidents are consistent with the predicted effects of climate change
The effects of Cyclone Nargis on Burma in May 2008 caused a spike in the price of rice. Burma has historically been a rice exporter, though yields have fallen as government price controls have reduced incentives for farmers. The storm surge inundated rice paddies up to inland in the Irrawaddy Delta, raising concern that the salt could make the fields infertile. The FAO had previously estimated that Burma would export up to 600,000 tons of rice in 2008, but concerns were raised in the cyclone's aftermath that Burma may be forced to import rice for the first time, putting further upward pressure on global rice prices.
Stem rust reappeared in 1998 in Uganga (and possibly earlier in Kenya) with the particularly virulent UG99 fungus. Unlike other rusts, which only partially affect crop yields, UG99 can bring 100% crop loss. Up to 80% yield losses were recently recorded in Kenya.
As of 2005 stem rust was still believed to be "largely under control worldwide except in Eastern Africa". But by January 2007 an even more virulent strain had gone across the Red Sea into Yemen. FAO first reported on 5 March 2008 that Ug99 had now spread to major wheat-growing areas in Iran.
These countries in North Africa and Middle East consume over 150% of their own wheat production; the failure of this staple crop thus adds a major burden on them. The disease is now expected to spread over China and the Far-East. The strong international collaboration network of research and development that spread disease-resistant strains some 40 years ago and started the Green Revolution, was since slowly starved of research funds because of its own success and is now too atrophied to swiftly react to the new threat.
Soil and productivity losses
Sundquist points out that large areas of croplands are lost year after year, due mainly to soil erosion
, water depletion and urbanisation
. According to him "60,000 km2/ year of land becomes so severely degraded that it loses its productive capacity and becomes wasteland", and even more are affected to a lesser extent, adding to the crop supply problem.
Additionally, agricultural production is also lost due to water depletion. Northern China in particular has depleted much of its non-renewables aquifers, which now impacts negatively its crop production .
Urbanisation is another, smaller, difficult to estimate cause of annual cropland reduction .
Rising levels of ozone
One possible environmental factor in the food price crisis is rising background levels of ozone in the atmosphere. Plants have been shown to have a high sensitivity to ozone levels, and lower yields of important food crops, such as wheat and soybeans, may have be a result of ozone levels. Ozone levels in the Yangtze Delta
were studied for their effect on oilseed rape
, a member of the cabbage family that produces one-third of the vegetable oil used in China. Plants grown in chambers that controlled ozone levels exhibited a 10-20 percent reduction in size and weight (biomass
) when exposed to elevated ozone. Production of seeds and oil was also reduced.
From the beginning of 2007 to early 2008, the prices of some of the most basic international food commodities increased dramatically on international markets. The international market price of wheat
doubled from February 2007 to February 2008 hitting a record high of over USD$10 a bushel
prices also reached ten year highs. In some nations, milk
prices more than doubled, while soy
(which hit a 34 year high price in December 2007) and maize
prices have increased dramatically.
Total food import bills rose by an estimated 25% for developing countries in 2007. Researchers from the Overseas Development Institute have suggested this problem will be worsened by a likely fall in food aid. As food aid is programmed by budget rather than volume, rising food prices mean that the World Food Programme (WFP) needs an extra $500 million just to sustain the current operations.
To ensure that food remains available for their domestic populations and to combat dramatic price inflation, major rice exporters, such as China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Egypt, have imposed strict export bans on rice. Conversely, several other nations, including Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia have, as well, either imposed high tariffs or blocked the export of wheat and other foodstuffs altogether, driving up prices still further for net food importing nations while trying to isolate their internal markets. Finally, North Korea, is also suffering from the food crisis (to such extent that a North Korean official was quoted in June '08 with saying "Life is more than difficult. It seems that everyone is going to die").. This nation however is solely relying on food assistance to cope with the crisis.
In developed countries
The global food price crisis has appeared in the U.S.A.
as the rice shortage
. The retail prices of food in the U.S. increased four percent according to the Consumer Price Index
in 2007, the largest increase in 17 years. The USDA Economic Research Service predicted that prices would increase another three to four percentage points throughout 2008.
In April 2008 Sam's Club instituted a limit on how much long-grain white rice that restaurant and retail customers could purchase due to shortages. Purchases of other types of rice were not restricted. A May 2008 national survey found that food banks and pantries across the U.S. were being forced to cut back on food distribution as 99 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of people requesting services. Rising food and fuel prices, inadequate food stamp benefits, unemployment, underemployment, and rent or mortgage costs were factors reported as forcing an average of 15-20 percent more people. Compounding this issue, USDA bonus foods have declined by $200 million and local food donations were down nationally about 9 percent over the same period. According to the California Association of Food Banks, which is an umbrella organization of nearly all food banks in the state, food banks are at the “beginning of a crisis.”
Impacts on farmers
If global price movements are transmitted to local markets, farmers in the developing world could benefit from the rising price of food. According to researchers from the Overseas Development Institute
, this may depend on farmers’ capacity to respond to changing market conditions. Experience suggests that farmers lack the credit and inputs needed to respond in the short term. In the medium or long term, however, they could benefit, as seen in the Asian green revolution
or in many African countries in the recent past.
Unrest and government actions in individual countries and regions
The price rises affected parts of Asia
particularly severely with Burkina Faso
, Cote d'Ivoire
seeing protests and riots
in late 2007 and early 2008 over the unavailability of basic food staples. Other countries which have seen food riots or are facing related unrest are: Mexico
, Sri Lanka
, and South Africa.
10,000 workers rioted close to the Bangladeshi
, smashing cars and buses and vandalising factories in anger at high food prices and low wages. Dozens of people, including at least 20 police officials, were injured in the violence. Ironically, the country achieved food self-sufficiency in 2002, but food prices increased drastically due to the reliance of agriculture on oil and fossil fuels.
Economists estimate 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go hungry.
In April 2008, the Brazilian
government announced a temporary ban on the export of rice. The ban is intended to protect domestic consumers.
One of the earlier food riots took place in Burkina Faso
, on February 22, when rioting broke in the country's second and third largest cities over soaring food prices (up to 65 percent increase), sparing however the capital, Ouagadougou
, where soldiers were mobilized throughout strategic points. The government promised to lower taxes on food and to release food stocks. Over 100 people were arrested in one of the towns.
, the world's fourth largest cocoa
producer, saw large scale rioting in late February 2008, in protest against inflating food and fuel prices, as well as the attempt by President Paul Biya
to extend his 25-year rule. At least seven people were killed in the worst unrest seen in the country in over fifteen years. This figure was later increased to 24. Part of the government response to the protests was a reduction in import taxes on foods including rice, flour, and fish. The government reached an agreement with retailers by which prices would be lowered in exchange for the reduced import taxes. As of late April 2008, however, reports suggested that prices had not eased and in some cases had even increased.
On April 24, 2008, the government of Cameroon announced a two-year emergency program designed to double Cameroon's food production and achieve food self-sufficiency.
On March 31, Côte d'Ivoire
's capital Abidjan
saw police use tear gas and a dozen protesters injured following food riots that gripped the city. The riots followed dramatic hikes in the price of food and fuel, with the price of beef rising from $1
.68 to $2.16 per kilogram, and the price of gasoline rising from $1.44 to $2.04 per liter
, in only three days.
, a boy was killed from gunshot to the head after Egyptian police intervened in violent demonstrations over rising food prices that gripped the industrial city of Mahalla
on April 8. Food prices, and particularly the price of bread
, have doubled over the last several months.
Drought and the food price crisis are threatening thousands in Ethiopia
On April 12, 2008, the Haitian
Senate voted to dismiss Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis
after violent food riots hit the country. The food riots caused the death of 5 people. Prices for food items such as rice, beans, fruit and condensed milk have gone up 50 percent in Haiti
since late 2007 while the price of fuel has tripled in only two months. Riots broke out in April due to the high prices, and the government is attempting to restore order by subsidizing a 15 percent reduction in the price of rice.
Food riots were reported in the Indian state of West Bengal
in 2007 over shortages of food
. India has banned the export of rice except for Basmati types of rice which attract a premium price.
Street protests over the price of food took place in Indonesia
where food staples and gasoline have nearly doubled in price since January 2008.
In April 2008, the Latin American
members of the United Nations
' Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) met in Brasília
in order to confront the issues of high food prices, scarcities and violence that are affecting the region.
The President of Mexico
, Felipe Calderón
, with industry representatives and members of the Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Concamin), agreed to freeze prices of more than 150 consumer staples, such as coffee, sardines, tuna, oil, soup or tea, among others, until the end of December 2008. The measure was carried out in an attempt to control inflation, which stood at an annual rate of 4.95%, the highest increase since December 2004.
In mid February, rioting that started in the Mozambican
rural town of Chokwe
and then spread to the capital, Maputo
, has resulted in at least four deaths. The riots were reported in the media to have been, at least in part, over food prices and were termed "food riots." A biofuel advocacy publication, however, claimed that these were, in fact, fuel riots
, limited to the rise in the cost of diesel, and argued that the "food riot" characterization worked to fan "anti-biofuels sentiment.
The Pakistan Army
has been deployed to avoid the seizure of food from fields and warehouses. This hasn't stopped the food prices from increasing. The new government has been blamed for not managing the countries food stockpiles properly.
Once the world's top rice producer, Myanmar
has produced enough rice to feed itself until now. Rice exports dropped over four decades from nearly 4 million tons to only about 40,000 tons last year, mostly due to neglect by Myanmar's ruling generals of infrastructure, including irrigation and warehousing.
On 3 May 2008 Cyclone Nargis
stripped Myanmar's rice-growing districts, ruining large areas with salt water. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that these areas produce 65 percent of the Southeast Asian country's rice. Worries of long-term food shortages and rationing are rife. The military regime says nothing about the rice crisis, but continues to export rice at the same rate.
"...at least the next two harvests are going to be greatly affected and there’ll be virtually no output from those areas during that time. So we’re likely to see considerable food and rice shortages for the next couple of years. The damage to the economy is going to be profound." said economist and Myanmar expert Sean Turnell, of Australia's Macquarie University. (interviewed in "The Irriwaddy", Tuesday, May 27, 2008)
In Panama, in response to higher rice prices the government began buying rice at the high market price and selling rice to the public at a lower subsidized price at food kiosks. This rice is known as El Compita
, and is bought by using tax money.
In the Philippines
, the Arroyo government
insisted on April 13 that there would be no food riots in the country and that there could be no comparison with Haiti's situation. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Sergio Apostol
stated that: "Haiti is not trying to solve the problem, while we are doing something to address the issue. We don't have a food shortage. So, no comparison... Comments by the Justice Secretary, Raul Gonzalez
, the following day, that food riots are not far fetched, were quickly rebuked by the rest of the government.
On April 15, the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, urged China, Japan, and other key Asian nations, to convene an emergency meeting, especially taking issue with those countries' rice export bans. "Free trade should be flowing," Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap stated. In late April 2008, the Philippines government requested that the World Bank exert pressure on rice exporting countries to end export restrictions.
The Russian government pressured retailers to freeze food prices before key elections for fear of a public backlash against the rising cost of food in October 2007. The freeze ended on May 1, 2008.
On 31 March 2008, Senegal
saw riots in response to the rise in the price of food and fuel. Twenty four people were arrested and detained in a response which one local human rights group claimed included "torture" and other "unspeakable acts" on the part of the security forces. Further protests took place in Dakar
on 26 April 2008.
Witnesses and officials in Somalia
said thousands of angry Somalis rioted on May 5, 2008 over rising food prices and the collapse of the nation's currency, culminating in clashes with government troops and armed shopkeepers that killed at least five protesters. The protests occurred amid a serious humanitarian emergency due to the Ethiopian war in Somalia
Food riots in southern Yemen
that began in late March and continued through early April, saw police stations torched, and roadblocks were set up by armed protesters. The army has deployed tanks and other military vehicles. Although the riots involved thousands of demonstrators over several days and over 100 arrests, officials claimed no fatalities; residents, however, claimed that at least one of the fourteen wounded people has died.
The UN (FAO)
released a study in December 2007 projecting a 49 percent increase in African cereal
prices, and 53 percent in European prices, through July 2008. In April 2008, the World Bank
, in combination with the IMF
, announced a series of measures aimed at mitigating the crisis, including increased loans to African farmers and emergency monetary aid to badly affected areas such as Haiti. According to FAO director Jacques Diouf
, however, the World Food Programme
needs an immediate cash injection of at least $1700 million, far more than the tens of million-worth in measures already pledged. On 28 April, 2008, the United Nations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
established a Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis
under his chairmanship and composed of the heads of the United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes, Bretton Woods institutions and relevant parts of the UN Secretariat to co-ordinate efforts to alleviate the crisis.
Actions by governments
is making up to US$200 million available to support poor farmers boost food production in face of the global food crisis.
On May 2, 2008 U.S. President George W. Bush announced an extra $770 million funding for international food aid.
The release of Japan's rice reserves onto the market may bring the rice price down significantly. As of May 16, anticipation of the move had already lowered prices by 14% in a single week.
On April 30, 2008 Thailand announced the creation of the Organization of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC) with the potential to develop a price-fixing cartel for rice. This is seen by some as an action to capitalise on the crisis.
In June 2008 the Food and Agriculture Organization hosted a High-Level Conference on World Food Security, in which $1.2 billion in food aid was committed for the 75 million people in 60 countries hardest hit by rising food prices.
In June 2008, has been required a sustained commitment from the G8 by some humanitarian organizations.