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.

Multimedia

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.

Riots

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.

Drought
 
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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs