It's not fun dinnertime conversation, but the amount of news and the potential effects of growing food prices released today makes it hard to ignore. No scare-tactics, just the facts:
- India has halted rice exports. The price of rice has doubled in the last month. India is the number two rice producer after China, and exports more than 4 million tons every year. Now that they're not exporting, there could be more big rice price jumps. It's a staple food for half the world population, especially for poor and for Asian populations. Other rice-producing countries are considering following suit.
- US corn farmers are expected to plant less corn this year, due in part to the high cost of growing it as well as the high price they get for growing the crop for ethanol. The high corn prices will affect beef and poultry producers, passing high prices on to consumers.
- The UN World Food Programme said food prices are affecting their ability to feed around 73 million people. They've already been forced to increase its budget by an extra half a billion dollars this year.
- The LA Times ran a story today called "A Perfect Storm of Hunger," pointing to ballooning food and fuel prices, a slumping dollar, the demand for biofuels and a string of poor harvests. All of these factors mean that the number of needy is skyrocketing.
All of these stories appeared within the last 24 hours. Is it a case media alarm, or are we headed for big problem?