Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Starvation rising as recession takes hold says UN

Kay Sexton at Red Green and Blue: The recent fall in grain prices across the developed world may have given the impression that food security isn’t a problem – but it is. There are more people not getting enough to eat than there were a decade ago.

Prices for grain, globally, are still 20% above the 2006 average, so overall this is a period of extremely high costs for staple foods. And while commodity prices have fallen in international markets, retail prices have not fallen in the developing world at anything like the same rate. In other words, a warehouse full of corn is cheaper, but a bag of corner on a Nairobi street corner is more expensive, than in 2006. And while the immediate suspicion is corruption in the developing world, that’s probably not the main reason for the hiked prices staying high. Cereal stocks are at a thirty year low – a situation made worse by the use of certain crops for bio-fuel – and scarcity of reserves will always keep prices high.

The Food And Agriculture Organisation says that more than a billion people, globally, will go hungry this year and the number of what is horribly called ‘chronically hungry’ people is still rising. By the end of 2008, 963 million people were estimated to be undernourished.

We need to do more to help small agricultural producers to remain on the land. When natural disaster, political upheaval or simple economic pressure strike, the first response from marginal farmers (those only growing enough food to feed their families and selling, or bartering any surplus locally) is to up sticks and head for the nearest city, where they become more of a drain on resources. But there is almost no institutional support for subsistence farmers anywhere in the world….

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