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.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.