This page provides links to articles about the global food crisis. At the end are my aticles about food, plus excellent articles by experts — including some major international agencies.
A key fact about rising food prices is that they are part of a larger phenomenon: the commodity cycle. Prices peaked in the early 1980’s, followed by two decades of low prices. There are four kinds of commodities:
- energy: coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, etc.
- industrial materials: iron ore, copper, etc.
- precious metals: gold, silver, platinum, etc.
- agricultural: grains, soybeans, cotton, etc.
There are overlaps among these 4 categories. The energy commodities are industrial inputs, either as fuel or feedstock (e.g., for plastic). Precious metals have industrial uses (e.g., electrical connectors, film, catalytic converters). Agricultural products can be burned for energy.
Most expert reports attribute the rise in commodity prices since 2000 to several interrelated causes, with the following probably the most significant (stated in terms of food):
1, Two decades of low food prices (in real terms food is cheaper than in the 1970’s), resulting in
(a) underinvestment in both agricultural research and production
(b) drawing down of food stockpiles to 30 or 40 year lows.
2. Inflation. This encourages stockpiling (aka “hoarding”), once people believe that tomorrow’s prices will be higher than today’s.
3. Special factors, such as weather and bad government policies (e.g., Haiti, where cheap US imports have put local farmers out of business). Diversion of food to biofuels plays a role, although their impact remains uncertain.
None of these are difficult to fix. They require both time and sound government policies.
Unfortunately, the initial reaction of governments has been counter-productive: price controls, export bans, punishing “speculators”. All easy and fun steps for government bureaucrats but do nothing to increase food production.
- Posts about the food crisis
- About the UG99 wheat fungus (stem rust)
- Articles about food supplies from other sources
(1) Posts about food on the FM website
- Important news about the global food crisis!, 1 April 2008
- A view from Indonesia of the food crisis, 3 April 2008
- Stratfor warns about the global food crisis, 18 April 2008
- What you probably do not know about China’s food crisis, 21 April 2008
- Higher food prices, riots, shortages – what is going on?, 29 April 2008
- A modest proposal for solving the global food crisis, 30 April 2008
- Weekend reading about the Food Crisis, 17 May 2008
- Teach a man to fish, and you understand what we have done wrong in Haiti, 23 May 2008
- “Food scares are exaggerated, but good copy for the media”, 28 May 2008
- Is global food production peaking?, 13 January 2010
- Fertilizer overuse destroying Chinese soil, 18 February 2010
- About the coming large rise in food prices, 12 November 2010
- More about rising food prices (perhaps one of the big trends of the next decade), 13 November 2010
- Will food prices continue to rise, destabilizing the third world?, 31 January 2011 — About La Nina.
- Another climate wild card: solar cycle 24, perhaps causing food riots during the next decade, 1 February 2011
- Update about the weather – on the Sun. Perhaps coming soon to Earth., 9 February 2011
- Update about the potential for another year of bad harvests, 10 February 2011
About the UG99 wheat fungus (stem rust)
- “Killer wheat fungus a threat to global food security?“, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks,27 March 2008
- “Leaf Rust Poses a Serious Threat in 2008“, Kansas Wheat, 29 April 2008 – Wheat leaf rust appears in Kansas. Not a good time for more crop damage. This is a different fungus than UG99 stem rust.
(3) Articles about food supplies from other sources
- “Riding a Wave“, Finance and Development magazine of the IMF, March 2008 – “Soaring commodity prices may have a lasting impact.”
- “Rising food prices: Policy options and World Bank response“, World Bank report, April 2008
- “Meat vs Fuel: Grain use in the U.S. and China, 1995-2008“, Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest, April 2008
- “Shortages Threaten Farmers’ Key Tool: Fertilizer“, New York Times, 30 April 2008
- “Global Agricultural Supply and Demand: Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in Food Commodity Prices“, US Dept of Agriculture Economic Research Service, May 2008
- “Surplus U.S. food supplies dry up“, USA Today, 1 May 2008
- “Recent Inflationary Trends in World Commodities Markets“, IMF, 1 May 2008
- “The Threat of Global Food Shortages – Part I“, YaleGlobal Online, 5 May 2008 — “Hoarding by countries and speculative bidding on food exacerbate scarcity and cause prices to climb”
- “The Threat of Global Food Shortages – Part II“, YaleGlobal Online, 7 May 2008 — “Big agribusiness may boost crops temporarily, but wreaks environmental havoc over the long term”
- Farmers unable to cash in on soaring food prices“, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2008 — More evidence that food prices are rising in part due to inflation.
- “The Last Bite – Is the world’s food system collapsing?“, Bee Wilson, The New Yorker, 19 May 2008 — “The global food market fosters both scarcity and overconsumption, while imperilling the planet’s ability to produce food in the future.”
- “Challenges and Opportunities in Meeting the New Face of Hunger“, Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, International Food Aid Conference, 15 April 2008
- “Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis“, The Guardian, 4 July 2008 — “Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive”
- “The Feeding of the Nine Billion: Global Food Security for the 21st Century“, Alex Evans, Chatham House Report, January 2009
- “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?“, Lester R. Brown, Scientific American, May 2009 — “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse.”