Global Food Crisis

"Perfect Storm" in Food Prices Caused by Many Factors

May 28, 2008

Part one of a special series that explores the local faces of the world's worst food crisis in decades.

In Australia a struggling farmer watches another harvest shrivel under the country's worst drought on record.

Another new member of the Chinese middle-class finally has enough cash to buy his first steak.

And a U.S. agricultural executive decides to grow corn instead of wheat to take advantage of the growing demand for biofuels.

Alone, none of these events would have been responsible for today's troubled stock markets, rampant civil unrest, and increasing famine and malnourishment for the world's poor. (See a video on the world food crisis.)

Together, they've caused the world's worst food crisis in a generation.

"A convergence of factors has led to what is sort of a perfect storm for food prices," Erik Thorbecke, an economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, told National Geographic News.

"I can't think of a time we've had this large an increase."

According to data from the International Monetary Fund, average global food prices have jumped nearly 50 percent since the end of 2006.

In response to the "agflation," belt-tightening has become commonplace even in affluent areas such as the U.S. and Europe.

But it's the world's poor—who already spend a disproportionate amount of their money on food—that are suffering the most.

Basic grains have shown one of the largest jumps, nearly doubling in cost since April 2007, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calculates.

Continued on Next Page >>


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