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Food crisis - Apr 19

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Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger

Marc Lacey, New York Times
Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

... Indeed, as it roils developing nations, the spike in commodity prices - the biggest since the Nixon administration - has pitted the globe’s poorer south against the relatively wealthy north, adding to demands for reform of rich nations’ farm and environmental policies. But experts say there are few quick fixes to a crisis tied to so many factors, from strong demand for food from emerging economies like China’s to rising oil prices to the diversion of food resources to make biofuels.

... Leaders who ignore the rage do so at their own risk. President René Préval of Haiti appeared to taunt the populace as the chorus of complaints about la vie chère - the expensive life - grew. He said if Haitians could afford cellphones, which many do carry, they should be able to feed their families. “If there is a protest against the rising prices,” he said, “come get me at the palace and I will demonstrate with you.”

When they came, filled with rage and by the thousands, he huddled inside and his presidential guards, with United Nations peacekeeping troops, rebuffed them. Within days, opposition lawmakers had voted out Mr. Préval’s prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, forcing him to reconstitute his government.
(18 April 2008)


The REAL cost of inflation: The Mail's Cost of Living Index reveals food prices rising at SIX times official figure

Sean Poulter, Daily Mail
The true, devastating scale of rising prices is revealed today - by the new Daily Mail Cost of Living Index.

It shows that families are having to find more than £100 a month extra this year to cope with increases in the cost of food, heat, light and transport.

According to the Consumer Price Index, inflation is running at only 2.5 per cent.

Yet the Mail's index finds that food costs alone are rising at 15.5 per cent a year - more than six times the official rate.
(18 April 2008)


Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles

Andrew Martin and Kim Severson, New York Times
Shoppers have long been willing to pay a premium for organic food. But how much is too much?

Rising prices for organic groceries are prompting some consumers to question their devotion to food produced without pesticides, chemical fertilizers or antibiotics. In some parts of the country, a loaf of organic bread can cost $4.50, a pound of pasta has hit $3, and organic milk is closing in on $7 a gallon.

... Organic prices are rising for many of the same reasons affecting conventional food prices: higher fuel costs, rising demand and a tight supply of the grains needed for animal feed and bakery items. In fact, demand for organic wheat, soybeans and corn is so great that farmers are receiving unheard-of prices.

... farmers and grain buyers say the growth of new organic acreage has slowed, falling short of rising demand and causing organic grain prices to soar.

That is partly because prices for conventional corn, soybeans and wheat are at or near records, so there is less incentive for farmers to switch to organic crops; making the switch requires a three-year transition and piles of paperwork.
(18 April 2008)

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