News / Middle East

    Higher Food Prices Loom in 2011

    As 2010 ends, reserve supplies are tight

    High food prices and alleged corruption sparked these opposition-driven protests in New Delhi in Dec. 2010.
    High food prices and alleged corruption sparked these opposition-driven protests in New Delhi in Dec. 2010.


    2010 ends with food prices on the rise in many parts of the world and reserve supplies tight. That has some experts nervous that another shock could return food prices to levels that triggered violence in 2008.


    In 2008, riots broke out in at least a dozen countries as food prices hit record highs. By 2010, prices had come down as good weather brought bigger harvests. But this February, UN Food and Agriculture Organization chief Jacques
    Diouf said the danger was not over.
    "All the other factors that led to the price crisis are all here,” he said.  “They have not changed."

    Diouf said biofuels still compete for food crops. One third of U.S. maize went to ethanol this year.
    Energy prices

    Energy prices remain high, which also affects the cost of food. And the world population keeps growing. He said that did not bode well for future food security.
    "So, if we have - and I pray we don't have it - serious problems of flood and drought in major exporting countries, we're back to square one," said Diouf.

    And in fact, drought in the Black Sea region cut Russia's wheat harvest by a third this year.

    Drought in the Black Sea region cut Russia's wheat harvest by a third in 2010. A subsequent ban on wheat exports drove prices up.
    Drought in the Black Sea region cut Russia's wheat harvest by a third in 2010. A subsequent ban on wheat exports drove prices up.

    Moscow banned wheat exports, which scared the grain markets and made the situation worse.

    "It is the drought that triggered the Russian ban,” says Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. “And it's the Russian ban that triggered the price increase."
    Prices vary from region to region, but on the global commodity markets wheat and maize have increased almost 50 percent over last year. And experts predict even higher prices next year.

    Higher prices
    Prices have not returned to where they were two years ago largely because grain stocks were bigger this year than in 2008. But that is no guarantee for coming years.
    "I think we really need to take some urgent actions,” Fan says. “If we don't, I guarantee you we will have another crisis."
    He believes countries need to invest in making their farmers more productive, because in the long run the world will need to feed more hungry people with less available land, water and other resources, and under a changing climate.
    In the short run, markets are nervously watching dry weather in South America. Bad harvests there could push prices up further. And  a return to 2008's high prices is not inevitable.

    "Certainly we're closer than we are comfortable with right now,” says economist John Anderson with the American Farm Bureau Federation, “but I think it's a little premature to say we're definitely due for a repeat of that magnitude."
    Farmers have responded to high prices by planting more, which, barring more weather catastrophes, should eventually bring prices down.
    According to Anderson, this is not the first time farmers have faced this challenge.
    "We've had growing population and limited resources for the last 10,000 years. And we've managed to deal with that through innovation and improvement in our technology."
    But Anderson says it will take time before those improvements impact market prices. In the meantime, he expects food prices to rise at least a little over the next several months.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora