Food Riots Haiti
Haitians look at the damages caused by looters at a gas station in Port-au-Prince.

Rising food prices are in the news, as riots occur in many countries in reaction to the doubling of the price of wheat and rice. Of course, it isn't the rich, the politicians, or the heads of the multinationals; it isn't any of the Pathocrats who are suffering.

It is people who are struggling to make ends meet, to find food for their families, their children, their elderly parents.

In February 2004, the Pentagon, in a secret report, predicted food riots as the result of the changing climate. It looks like they have arrived, although quite a few years before the Pentagon predicted. The article linked above includes:
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'
The famine has begun. Will their other scenarios come about as quickly?

The following are a selection of articles from around the world discussing rising food prices:

Bangladesh garment workers strike over soaring food prices

DHAKA (AFP) - At least 15,000 Bangladesh garment factory workers went on strike Tuesday to call for higher wages as food prices in the impoverished nation soar, police said.

Bandladesh's garment industry, crucial for the economy as the leading export earner, saw dozens of factories idle at the Fatullah industrial area, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Dhaka, local police chief Bhuiyan Mahbub Hasan said.

"Since morning, over 15,000 workers are sitting in their factories doing nothing. They said they would not start work until the owners raise their salaries. They said their present wages don't cover food expenses," he said.

Last week, a similar strike led owners of at least four factories in the same area to raise worker salaries by 200-250 taka (three to four dollars) a month after riots over high food prices left at least 50 people injured and several factories vandalised.

Prices for the staple rice have doubled in Bangladesh in the past year as floods last summer and a major cyclone that hit the country in November led to severe damage of crops.

The basic minimum monthly salary of a garment worker is only 25 dollars while a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice costs 35 taka (50 cents) - normally enough to feed a family of four for a day.

The majority of Bangladesh households spend nearly 70 percent of their income on food and the government has moved to import more rice and sell it at subsidised prices on the open market to tame inflation.

But soaring global prices and moves by many rice exporting countries to limit supplies has created shortages.

At least five people have died in similar protests over high food and fuel prices in Haiti, while disturbances have rocked Egypt, Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries in the past month.

Soft commodities in strong demand as food prices soar

Dale Jackson
The Globe and Mail

Traders in soft commodities are keeping a close eye on events in parts of the developing world where food supply shortages and skyrocketing prices have sparked riots.

The World Bank says 33 nations may face "social unrest" as a result. Already in Haiti four people died in two days of rioting. In some countries, hording is punishable by jail terms or even death.

Prices for crops such as wheat and rice - a basic staple for half the world - have doubled over the past year. According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization global food prices rose 57 per cent in March from the previous year.

The supply crunch is prompting exporting nations like China, Vietnam, India and Egypt to hold back supply - forcing consuming nations like the Philippines to ration whatever is available on the open market.

"That situation could, in the short term get even worse. I don't see any immediate solution for that over the next several weeks or months," says Vic Lespinasse, a soft commodities trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange....

Weather is a bigger price factor than other supply-draining fundamentals such as global population growth, demand from China, the weak U.S. dollar and growing demand for biofuel, he added. Global warming has made weather patterns harder to predict. A recent report by Macquarie Research Equities points specifically to the La Nina weather system for global weather shifts.

According to the report, excess rain in Southeast Asia will reduce palm oil output, more rain in Australia will increase wheat output, and a strong hurricane season in the Americas could damage sugar, cotton and other crops.

World's new crisis: soaring food prices

Lesley Wroughton, Washington, and Jewel Topsfield
The Age

The World Bank has issued an urgent call to rich nations to help stem rising food prices, warning that social unrest in poor countries is spreading and that 100 million people are at risk of being plunged deeper into poverty.

"We have to put our money where our mouth is now, so that we can put food into hungry mouths. It is as stark as that," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick, as he called for more contributions to the $500 million World Food Program.

The plea, issued after a meeting of aid officials in Washington, follows a dramatic surge in world prices for staple foods - rice, for example, has shot up by 75% in just two months - and resulting food-related riots in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cameroon in the past week.

World leaders were quick to respond to Mr Zoellick's plea, with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd among those pledging to put world food security on their political agendas.

Mr Rudd said his world tour, from which he returned at the weekend, had changed his vision for Australia's global agenda. "One of the things that I discussed with various world leaders was (that) we have an unfolding food crisis around the world," Mr Rudd told ABC.

"We had 10 major sets of food riots across the world. So if you want something which should be close to our global agenda, therefore our national agenda, (it is) how do we contribute to better food security around the world."

But a pledge by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to raise the issue at the next G8 summit of world leaders failed to impress Mr Zoellick. "Frankly speaking, that G8 meeting is in June and we cannot wait," he said, after the meeting involving the IMF and the World Bank's Development Committee. "We estimate that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty."

Anger over food prices led to last week's riots in Haiti, in which at least five people were killed and the country's prime minister was ousted.

Developing countries claim that rich countries, in their rush to tackle global warming, are helping to drive up food prices by encouraging the use of crops to produce biofuels rather than to feed people. Most of the rise in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to biofuels in the United States.

According to the 2008 World Development Report, more than 240 kilograms of corn - enough to feed one person for a year - is required to produce 100 litres of ethanol, enough to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle.

Other contributing factors to rising food prices are the high price of oil (which increases costs of food production and distribution), population growth in Asia and drought in wheat-producing countries including Australia and Kazakhstan.....

Food prices push up CPI (New Zealand)

Rising food prices were the main contributing factor to the 0.7 percent rise in the Consumers Price Index in the March quarter, taking annual inflation to 3.4 percent.

The Statistics New Zealand figures show that during the March 2008 quarter, food prices rose 1.8 percent and grocery prices 3.6 percent. The high risers were many of the staple food items. Butter rose 33.9 percent, cheese was up 18.9 percent, and bread was 7.3 percent higher.

House rentals increased 1.2 percent, utilities were one percent higher and there was a 8.8 percent rise in electricity prices.

Petrol was up four percent for the quarter, mostly offset by lower prices for international air transport (down 8.6 percent).

For the year to the March quarter, the CPI rose 3.4 percent. A 20.5 percent rise in the price of petrol made the most significant contribution to the increase. Statistics NZ says if petrol prices had remained constant from the March 2007 quarter, the CPI would have risen 2.5 percent for the year to the March 2008 quarter.

Cosatu warns of riots over soaring food prices (South Africa)

Riots over soaring food prices cannot be ruled out in South Africa. The cost of basic foods has risen sharply around the world in recent months, sparking violent protests in many countries.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven says this is why it is necessary to channel the anger into peaceful protests. The labour federation started a protest march against rising food, fuel and electricity prices in Polokwane on Sunday and today protestors will march in the North West. On Thursday, Gauteng and the Western Cape will be targeted.

Meanwhile, the price of milk is also expected to rise by about 10 c, at the end of the month but milk producers say this is not enough to cover their rising cost of production. They say many farmers are closing shop as they battle to survive.

Milk producers say they only receive R2,80 out of nearly R9 paid by consumers for a litre of milk. Farmers in the Free State want government, to fix the price of milk at a level which will consider their input costs. They also want to establish a milk exchange where buyers bid for milk.

Soaring food prices in Turkey give officials food for thought

Consumer budgets were dealt yet another blow by soaring food prices on staples such as rice and wheat, while record-breaking oil prices have continued to push the prices of almost all other items up for the average household's budget.

And Turks are no exception when it comes to feeling the global pinch of soaring food prices: Rice alone has risen 130 percent in the last three months in Turkey, a figure that was only 68 percent worldwide last year.

Last week, dispatches recorded numerous riots in a dozen countries, signaling social unrest and instability. According to the World Bank, food prices have risen 83 percent in the past three years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was asked to provide a comprehensive relief package to alleviate the crisis, while the United Nations World Food Program is trying to collect on commitments but falling dramatically short of its target. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says world cereal stocks this year will be the lowest since 1982.

Economists are trying to decipher what is really happening in the commodities market as officials scramble to address growing public tension over the high cost of food items. Greg Barrow, a senior public affairs officer at the World Food Programme (WFP), expressed this uncertainty in comments to Today's Zaman, saying it was "very difficult to predict precisely how high food prices are going to rise and how long they are going to stay at elevated levels." He also warned, "The effect on markets is already having an impact on the lives of the poorest, hungriest people, and the WFP faces an urgent need for increased donations to its budget in 2008 to meet a shortfall of half-a-billion US dollars, which has arisen as a result of the food price increases."

More than 73 million people in 78 countries depend on food aid, delivered mainly by the WFP. However in recent years the amount of aid has decreased due to increased food scarcity.

Rioting in response to rising food prices broke out recently in Egypt, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ethiopia and Haiti. According to the World Bank, 33 countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices. The armies of Pakistan and Thailand have been called to take measures to prevent looting and theft from fields and food warehouses. World Bank President Robert Zoellick called on governments to rapidly honor commitments to provide the WFP with the $500 million in emergency aid it needs by May 1. "It is critical that governments confirm their commitments as soon as possible and that others begin to commit," Zoellick said. He repeated his warnings on Sunday after a meeting of the bank's policy-setting committee and expressed frustration over slow progress. He said international finance meetings are "often about talk" and urged them "to put our money where our mouth is to help hungry people."

Turkish officials are trying to reassure the public that the government is taking all measures to protect consumers from the pinch of the global food crisis. Turkish Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Mehdi Eker said, "There is no need for alarm from the Turkish perspective," adding that "we have enough wheat and rice in stock to meet demand through the new harvesting season." The ministry is taking precautionary measures to control prices and prevent speculators from raising food prices artificially. Agricultural Products Office General Director İsmail Kemaloğlu signaled a change for the first time in their import policy, saying: "We will continue to import grain during the harvesting season."

The policy change met with a wave of criticism from producers in Turkey. Fearing that imported grain would drive prices lower to farmers' detriment, associations representing producers and farmers expressed their disapproval at the government's policies. Union of Turkish Agricultural Chambers President Şemsi Bayraktar said, "I'm concerned that importing during harvest season will harm our producers and disrupt the internal balance."

In the meantime, Turkish Minister of Foreign Trade Kürşad Tüzmen said yesterday that the government wanted "price increases balanced well with the market." Speaking to the Anatolia news agency he said that although there was "increasing demand for food worldwide, we don't see a radical change in food demand in Turkey." He also cautioned speculators about spreading undue fears and taking advantage of consumers, saying, "We won't let our people be milked by market speculators."

What change took place and led to the current increases in world food prices? There is no single answer to that question. Barrow explains: "These [reasons] include the relatively high price of oil, which adds to the cost of using agricultural machinery, the cost of transporting food, an increase in the cost of fertilizer production. There has also been a dramatic increase in demand from the growing economies of Asia -- mainly India and China -- where demand for grain has increased as wealth has increased and tastes have changed, with consumers eating more meat and dairy products. Adverse climatic conditions in some of the world's biggest grain producing countries, like Australia, have led to a drop in production levels. Finally, the shift in big producing countries like the United States toward biofuel production has added to the pressure on prices as fields that were once used to grow crops for human consumption are now growing food to generate biofuels."

The US government was a target of blame at IMF and World Bank meetings over the weekend. Many officials singled out aggressive US policies pushing corn-based ethanol and other biofuels as deepening the food crisis. On the other hand, the US is pointing a finger at China and other developing countries experiencing a strong demand for food. While admitting biofuel is a contributing factor, US officials are highlighting rising energy prices as a contributing factor to soaring food costs.

Asked about the root cause of the price hikes, Joachim von Braun, general director of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), explained to Today's Zaman: "The price of food and the value of natural resources such as land and water needed to produce have changed for the long run. The current high prices may be excessive, but we need to get used to high prices." According to Von Braun, "the main forces are high demand because of high economic growth -- and that is good -- high oil prices and third, bad policies, especially neglect of agricultural investment for many years and ill-designed, too-aggressive biofuels policies." He urges "a major initiative for agricultural productivity," saying: "Governments need to increase their public support of agriculture and give incentives to the private sector. The increased tendencies to ban exports and increase import subsidies hinders sharing [during] the scarcity around the world, and this needs coordinated international action."

Almost everyone agrees that the price hikes are likely to stay with us for a long time. Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London's Centre for Food Policy, thinks the hikes are permanent. Responding to a question posed by Today's Zaman on what could be done to alleviate the food crisis, he said: "This is very difficult. There is a policy divide; some argue that we merely need to increase production using new high-tech methods such as genetic modification. Others including [myself] think we will have to develop new food systems based on ecological principles." Lang suggests "we will have to reduce meat consumption, be very careful not to allow biofuels to compete for food over land use, reduce food waste and be more equitable."

Rising food prices is causing another interesting development in the world economy -- a reverse wave of protectionism. Countries usually impose trade barriers to imports to protect local industry and boost exports. This time the opposite is happening. Recently, at least a dozen of 58 countries have reduced tariffs to food imports and erected barriers to exports in hopes of restraining food prices domestically and moving toward "self-sufficiency," according to the World Bank. India started to restrict grain exports while decreasing taxes on edible oils, corn and butter. Egypt followed suit and halted rice exports for six months as of April 1. Turkey is also cutting import taxes on wheat to 8 percent from 130 percent and to 0 percent from 100 percent on barley to reflect the policy change on the food market. Aside from short-term measures, government sources in Turkey are saying revitalized irrigation plans for the giant Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) are in the works.

Rice and flour prices go up all over the region (Caribbean)

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has announced that flour prices will go up by 17 per cent and in Barbados flour will go up by 30 per cent, the fourth such in four years.

Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world's population, over the past year its price has risen by over 70 per cent putting it beyond the reach of more and more people who need it to survive.

In the past week there have been food riots across the world including Haiti where five people died.
Over the weekend the Prime Minister became the first government minister to be sacked over the handling of the issue.

In the rest of the Caribbean consumers are also feeling the pinch of soaring food prices.

The new Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson is expected to include the rising price of food in his address to the nation on Monday.

Barbadian shoppers will have to pay 30 per cent more for flour and local bakeries say customers can expect to pay more for bread and pastries as a result.

And in St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves also announced a 17 per cent increase in the price of flour and has not ruled out a further increase in August.

One of the factors driving up food prices is the production of biofuels where agricultural lands are used to produce crops for a less environmentally damaging alternative to petrol.

The UN spokesperson on the right to food John Ziegler has called the practice a crime against humanity.

World News: Haitian Leader Booted Over Food Prices

The Haitian Parliament voted out its prime minister after days of violence in the country over rising food prices. In the session Saturday, members agreed 16-11 to get rid of Jacques Edouard Alexis, reports CNN. Alexis was nominated prime minister in 2006, and in February survived a no-confidence vote. But the rising costs are taking a toll on the nation, and accountability fell partly on him.

Many in the nation, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, are suffering from sharp increases in the price of food, especially rice. All over the world the price of food has risen 40 percent since the middle of last year. But with most of the population attempting to live on less than $2 a day and, with the country being forced to import nearly all of its food due to damaged farmland, the situation in Haiti is dire, leading to violent protests and confrontations with U.N. peacekeepers.

In fact, not long after Alexis was voted out, a Nigerian U.N. peacekeeper was shot and killed while going to buy food. In total, the violence has left five people dead, reports CNN. But a U.N. commander insists that Haiti is becoming more peaceful, with more citizens returning to work as normal and public transportation resuming. "It is important for the people to have a peaceful life in Haiti," he said. And, also on Saturday, Haitian President René Préval announced a reduction in the price of rice by 15 percent, reports CNN. International aid money and help from private companies would assist with subsidizing the prices. He did not say when the price change would go into effect, though.