The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has released a new Food Outlook, and the news isn’t great.
Global wheat and rice production have both suffered setbacks this year as Russia has suffered from drought and Pakistan from floods. Poor cassava harvests in Asia are also a concern, given that cassava is the staple food of nearly a billion people. Tight supply has caused prices to rise for these and other food commodities.
The fear is that we’ll face another global food crisis like the one that caused riots in several countries in 2008. The FAO suggests it’s not time to panic yet, but a little worry would be appropriate:
Amid fears of a repeat of the price surge experienced in 2008, FAO expects supplies of major food crops in 2010/11 to be more adequate than two years ago, mainly because of much larger reserves. The fact that supplies of rice, wheat and white maize, the most important staple food crops in many vulnerable countries, are also more ample lessens the risk of a repeat of the 2007/08 crisis in the current season. Nonetheless, following a series of unexpected downward revisions to crop forecasts in several major producing countries, world prices have risen alarmingly and at a much faster pace than in 2007/08.
… With the pressure on world prices of most commodities not abating, the international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011 and be prepared.
The last time I wrote about fears of another global food crisis, commenters suggested a couple of interesting links: Raj Patel writing in the Guardian about the persistence of global hunger and its links to international trade policies, and Robin Pagnamenta of The Times (England) pointing out that some crops that would in the past have been used as food are now going to biofuel instead.