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A New Global Food Price Crisis is Looming

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Food crisis fear grows as wheat prices hits record.’Demand for wheat and oilseed puts India at risk.’ ‘North Korea Faces Worst Food Crisis in Decade, U.N. Says.’ Remember the global food price crisis of 2007- 2008? Another one is looming.

Between 2005 and 2008 the international prices of major food cereals like rice, corn and soy surged upward. The food price crisis officially ended two years ago and the number of people in the world without sufficient food has fallen to 925 million, but the prospects are not looking good. Three weeks ago the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) published a report which warns that food price increases are dangerously close to crisis level. Yet again stocks of some staple crops like corn and barley are set to fall. The report notes that as a result of lower harvests in key producing countries, reserve stocks will have to be used. This will lead to a further restriction in supplies next year. Furthermore the FAO warns: “Cereals, however may not be the only crops farmers will be trying to produce more of, as rising prices have also made other commodities attractive to grow, from soybeans to sugar and cotton. Consumers may have little choice but to pay higher prices for their food. The international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011 and be prepared.”

Multiple factors
A multitude of factors contribute to the rise of food prices; droughts in grain-producing nations as a result of climate change, rising oil prices, which cause general escalations in the costs of fertilizers, food transportation and industrial agriculture. In addition, the rising world population, the increasing use of biofuels in developed countries and an growing demand for meat and dairy across China, Brazil and India, don’t help much either. When these factors are coupled with falling world food stockpiles, a worldwide rise in food prices is inevitable.

Naturally an escalation in the price of basic food commodities has a massive impact on the world’s poor, since they spend a much higher proportion of their income on food than wealthier people. The global food price crisis exacerbates, but also drew attention to the chronic problem of hunger and poverty in both developed and developing countries. The crisis has added over a hundred million people to the numbers of chronically undernourished making it into a total of one billion people.

Share and build knowledge
To avoid another food shortage disaster, it is vital to come up with solutions. Not only by creating new ones, but also by integrating the current ones. Since different scientific fields produce different solutions, interdisciplinary research should be utilized to its full potential. Especially when it comes to solving food issues. While a biotechnologist might focus on the improvement of fertilizer in order to reduce food shortages, a mathematician worries about the exponential growth of the world population. And while a political sociologist analyzes a nation’s food aid policy, an economist studies its local markets and subsidies. All different research should be reviewed, discussed and extended within the academic community. We therefore should encourage dialogue between researchers, political decision-makers and those concerned with economic development, with a single aim: share and build knowledge.

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