Food markets volatility is increasing as prices for staple grains, meats and vegetables have risen to their highest levels in two years. Meanwhile, drought and flood events – such as those which decimated harvests in Russia and Pakistan – are still being predicted by scientists. Many bread basket nations and agricultural producing regions are likewise reporting lackluster harvests.
Many global agricultural and humanitarian organizations worry that the combination of these trends may result in drastic price increases and potential food riots, such as those experienced in 2008 in nearly 25 countries.
Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, warns of “growing concern among countries and continuing volatility and uncertainty in food markets,” saying these concerns have been “compounded by recent increases in grain prices.” According to data from the Reuters-Jeffries commodity price indicator, wheat and maize prices worldwide have shot up nearly 30% in a few weeks. The U.S. predicts global wheat harvests will fall by 30 million tons from last year, or a decrease of 5.5%. Zoellick predicts this volatility will remain for another five years. The World Bank has propositioned governments for donations to a “crisis fund” to help developing nations in need.
Chris Leather, food policy advisor at Oxfam, does not believe that food riots on the 2008 scale are imminent because global food stocks are generally stronger now than then. Still, he acknowledges the “underlying causes [of what happened then] are still there” and deserve significant attention. Read more…