Thanks to reader Sunshine for forwarding me this AP article, which I think does a really good job of pointing up something I’ve been talking about for a long time – the food crisis that was in the news two years ago never actually went away. While food prices stabilized in the developed world and things like the economic crisis shoved the situation of the poor and hungry off the front pages, that doesn’t mean the food crisis came to an end.
With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition, while inflation stays moderate in the United States and Europe. Compounding the problem in many countries: prices hardly fell from their peaks in 2008, when global food prices jumped in part due to a smaller U.S. wheat harvest and demand for crops to use in biofuels.
Majeedan Begum, a Pakistani mother of five, said a bag of flour for bread, the staple of her family’s diet, costs three times what it did two years ago in her hometown of Multan. She can no longer afford meat or fruit.
“My domestic budget has been ruined,” said Begum, 35.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index — which includes grains, meat, dairy and other items in 90 countries — was up 22 percent in March from a year earlier though still below 2008 levels. In some Asian markets, rice and wheat prices are 20 to 70 percent above 2008 levels, it says.
It is easy to forget that there is a world hunger crisis, with so many other crises jockeying for our attention. But it does not change the fact that more people are hungry now than ever in history, and that the last two years have brought us 100 million new hungry people – or that social stability depends heavily on people being fed.