As food prices rise, individual households become unable to afford basic commodities. This fuels a sentiment of injustice among citizens, which translates almost directly into street protests resulting in violence and instability.
Today, food prices are steadily increasing. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) reports, prices rose an average of 1.4 percent in September and fell only slightly in October. While the UNFAO food price index that measures monthly price changes for a basket of goods is still below the 2011 levels that spurred unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa, the index is currently only 13 percent below 2008 levels when food riots broke out in several countries. Colin Roche, representing nonprofit international aid group Oxfam noted that even though prices aren’t as high as they have been previously, this index “shows that food prices remain at extremely high levels.”
I think it is trends on both the supply and demand side of food commodities that are driving up prices. When looking at demand, population growth, increasing wealth, and the use of grain to fuel cars play a role while on the supply side, climate-related trends such as soil erosion, heat waves and melting mountain glaciers are taking a toll on food prices.
High food prices are not a fleeting problem. Given current policies in a rapidly changing climate system, food prices will only continue to rise. If left unsolved, this problem and the political unrest it will surely lead to threaten our global future.
I see this as an international problem that should be addressed by the international community. Even though the United Stats throws out tons of food every day, people in developing countries continue to go to bed hungry. Without international cooperation, prices will continue to rise and global stability will be in jeopardy.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “FAO Food Price Index” http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/wfs-home/foodpricesindex/en/ (accessed 1 December 2012).
Ron Nixon, “Global Food Prices on the Rise, U.N. says,” The New York Times 4 October 2012.