A global food crisis

One of the biggest complaints of today’s consumers revolves around high gas and food prices. This complaint is not just from consumers in the United States. It has reached a global level.

Over the past 12 months, global food prices have increased by an average of 40 percent. Experts cannot find a single driving force behind this increase, but argue that there are numerous factors. These factors include an increased demand for food commodities from developing countries and increased costs of transportation.

One of the reasons for this global food crisis is the recurring natural disasters such as the extended drought in Australia. This drought has caused the annual rice harvest to fall by as much as 98 percent. The drought in California has killed a large number of farm animals. The floods in Iowa have destroyed acres of cropland. The unseasonable rains in Kerala, India have destroyed tons of grain. The effects of Cyclone Nargis on Burma caused a spike in the price of rice. The list goes on and on.

The United Nations estimates that it would take at least $30 billion per year to solve the food crisis that has spread across the world. This global food crisis has left over 862 million people undernourished. It would take roughly 10 years to make sustainable improvements, amounting to about $300 billion.

The World Bank is contributing $1.2 billion to help mend this crisis, and they are actively trying to obtain funding from other countries to help create more financial aid for poor countries.

According to World Bank research, the current level of commodity prices are directly impacting the food prices, throwing about 100 million people into the ranks of the poor and hungry. In late May, Congress devoted a hearing to the global food crisis and identified a series of proposals that would hopefully make a difference in alleviating the problems.

Arvind Subramanian is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a senior research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Subramanian proposes simple solutions as a part of the work he has done for his writings on growth, trade and development in an article titled “The global food crisis: A toolkit for audacious leaders.”

Short-run solution:
Ensure early emergency reaction to food shortages, including the capacity to mobilize food quickly and cheaply if necessary.

Long-run solution:
Use the current crisis to bring agriculture back into focus. The importance of agriculture has been neglected for decades. With this current crisis, agriculture has received increased development assistance from governments and multilateral organizations. People are now seeing the value behind agricultural development.

So what’s being done?

The UN also has set up the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is providing $4.2 million to boost a program tackling rural poverty in the West African island nation of Cape Verde. This program’s goal is to assist roughly 60,000 poor rural people through improving sustainable agriculture efforts and ensuring that the food is affordable.

Will these various plans work? How can we help solve world hunger? Is there a solution? And will this food crisis hit the U.S. especially with the raising prices in fuel and food?

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