by: Matthew von Abo
The world is speeding down dual carriage traffic-less freeways of uncertainty with severe and unrelenting twists and turns that punish the populace which cling to its surface. The world economy is slowing down to stagnation as the world credit crunch suffocates the banking and property sector. Global inflation is climbing at an unrelenting pace and the desperate search is on as an energy crisis looms. The castigate for the poor and ultimately all who live and breathe on this good earth will then be affected ultimately by potentially one of the greatest humanitarian predicaments imaginable: the dramatic upward swing in global food prices. According to the World Bank, the research analysts at Bloomberg and the World Food Program, global staple food prices have soared in recent history. For example rice which is considered one of the world’s staple food products and which fill the stomachs of over 3 billion people on a daily basis. It has increased by 74% between March 2007 and March 2008. But this pales in comparison to the tremendous increase in the price of wheat, which has increased as much as 130% in the one year. This crazed increase thereby helps drive the poverty cycle as poorer families will spend more than 80% of their income on food to sustain life. The global food crisis has been in latency over the last ten years and has presented itself as a fiendish spectre in present day. It is made up of multiple causes but all are integrally interrelated and reliant on one another. Firstly it starts at the rise of fuel prices. In the past 4 years oil has jumped from an average of $25 a barrel to a present day price of $124.13 (15 May 2008- Bloomberg) a barrel. The mechanisms of food production within modern society are completely dependant on energy provided by oil products; this starts from fertilizers to ploughing to sowing to reaping to packaging to transport and many more activities. The next is an unprecedented rise of the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. These countries have received near exponential growth in the past few years which have soaked up energy resources and inevitably food. With this sudden growth, consumption habits have changed as the population of these respective countries have climbed the class ladder. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation the meat consumption in China has increased 20 Kilograms from 1980 to 50 Kilograms per capita in 2007. It requires a massive amount of resources for meat production, e.g. as much as 13 000 litres of water are needed to produce one kilogram of beef. The next cause is that related to the previous two; global climate change. Climatic instability has destroyed crops and has plunged regions of the world into weather extremes which are only expected to intensify, thereby forcing yet another surge in food prices. Ultimately, the fourth cause which is considered the saviour of the planet as a viable green energy source; Bio-fuels. Bio-fuel is now a preferred crop over food production in the developed world, as the global energy crisis’s shadow only intensifies. Rising oil prices and fears over climate change have seen a massive rise in the use of maize to make bio-fuels thereby pushing up food prices even further. According to the World Bank, more than 40% of maize grown in the United States is now used for fuel. A United Nations envoy called “bio-fuels a crime against humanity”. In essence food that can be used to alleviate the supply/demand issue is rather used to jump-start the ailing world economy and soothe the guilt over climate change. These four contributing factors, which can be likened to the four horsemen of the apocalypse, are dragging the world into unfamiliar territory. No longer is it just the sole concern of the nation state; it is now a global issue. An issue which can very quickly grow out of control.