Climate Change Pushing World to Brink of Food Crisis as FAO Price Index Jumps to 208.1 in February

Food…

Along with water and energy, which are related to its production, it is one of the key commodities necessary to keep the world’s 7.1 billion people alive, healthy and happy. Its price and availability can determine the fate of nations and the stability of the world’s economic system. Rising prices mean risk of increasing poverty, risk of political instability and, in the worst instances, a creeping spread of hunger and malnutrition about the globe.

And ever since the year 2000 world food prices have been steadily and inexorably rising.

FAO index February 2014

(UN FAO Food Price Index through February of 2014. Image source: UN FAO.)

The UN FAO Index — An Indicator for Global Crisis

The United Nations provides a valuable index that comprehensively assesses the overall cost of food in both real and nominal terms. Managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food price index has been tracking global indicators for this valuable commodity since 1961.

The FAO Index emerged in a world that hosted 3 billion people. A world that was just beginning to realize the strengths and limitations of its new, mechanized, fossil fuel-dependent, civilization. A world where new fossil water resources and slow to recharge groundwater were being tapped through drilling. A world where farming was expanding into even the most marginal and vulnerable of regions even as forests continued to be converted into farmland at a stunning rate.

From a period of the 1960s on into the first years of the 1970s, the nascent FAO price index recorded stable if moderately high global food prices. By the 1970s, food prices spiked along with the cost of energy during an oil crisis related to a Growth Shock as US and western energy production encountered a series of difficult to cross boundary limits.

The First Test — 1970s Energy and Climate Crisis

The FAO also emerged in a world where agriculture was heavily dependent on fossil material and energy inputs — for machinery, pesticides, and for fertilizer. This single commodity dependence meant that any spike in oil prices also had a deleterious effect on food access. And energy price spike after energy price spike occurred throughout the 1970s. A first warning that such a high level of reliance on just one commodity — oil — was a clear and critical weakness for the global economic and food distribution system.

At the same time, an intense drought swept over Africa. The rains that annually drenched the Sahel region faded and, then, for a period of about a decade, simply failed. The energy crisis combined with severe decadal climate shifts in Africa to further stress world food markets already reeling under oil price shocks. Higher prices, political instability and widespread hunger soon followed.

During this time, the link between human fossil fuel emissions and a potential to radically alter the climate in a way that was far more hostile to traditional agriculture was mostly unexplored. But despite this general lack of awareness, changes were already lining up that would have severe consequences for human agriculture within only a few decades. A then less visible, but no less important, weakness resulting from industrial agriculture’s, and much of modern civilization’s, reliance on oil, gas and coal. Fuels whose endlessly ramping use created long-term and ever increasing damage to environments in which human agriculture could be reasonably expected to exist.

Rise From Crisis Without Addressing Underlying Vulnerability

Political pressure was put on the Middle East to make energy more cheaply and readily available. Forests were cut down in South America to make room for more farmland. Saudi Arabia mined fossil water to farm its deserts. Meanwhile, the rains eventually returned to Africa and so prices again fell to far more affordable levels during the 1980s and 1990s. But the key weaknesses — reliance on fossil fuels for agriculture, an immense world population that jumped to 4, 5 and then 6 billion, a host of problems and vulnerabilities emerging from big industrial farms, and increasing agricultural vulnerability to water scarcity and related climate shifts were not addressed.

So as the world entered the first decade of the new millennium and signs of crisis began to again emerge, it found itself radically unprepared to deal with what was shaping up to be a more vicious repeat of the shocks experienced during the 1970s.

Energy Shocks, Extreme Weather, Consumption Changes, 7 Billion People

Entering the first decade of a new millennium, food prices were again on the rise. Oil shocks were starting to once more ramp up and strange changes to the world’s climate were starting to spur extreme drought and rainfall events that were outside of the typical context of human agriculture. Meanwhile, emerging economies in Asia such as India and China were beginning to demand more meat thereby putting additional stress on the world’s farmland — as meat-based agriculture is about 1/50 as efficient on a calorie comparison basis when compared to simply farming grains, legumes and vegetables.

By the middle of the decade, a series of crisis points had been reached. Worldwide demand for both food and energy was raging. Populations were nearing 7 billion souls. Oil price increases were leading more nations to use farmland for biofuels production creating a competition for land use between fuels and food. Australia was suffering its worst drought in 1,000 years and many other regions of the world were likewise sporadically hit. But the big, severe, widespread droughts would wait for next decade to emerge with even greater force and rapacity.

By 2007, world oil prices were screaming toward record levels and an already climate and demand stressed food market rapidly followed. By 2008, the FAO index had surged to a record level of 201. Such a large jump had numerous and far-reaching effects. Hunger again became an issue of serious concern in Africa and, sporadically, various countries began to see food riots as the distribution system painfully rebalanced to reflect new levels of increased demand and struggling output. Global economic recession immediately ensued and prices were drawn down through the economically vicious process of demand destruction.

Russian Wildfires 2010

(Satellite shot of smoke from massive wildfires raging across Russia during 2010. The largest smoke plume in this image is 3,000 kilometers in length, about the distance between Los Angeles and Chicago. Image source: Lance-Modis.)

As 2010 opened a new decade, a weak El Nino combined with human caused climate change to produce a powerful and persistent heat dome over Russia and the Ukraine. As spring continued into summer, the heat intensified and massive wildfires began to break out. A pallor of smoke covered millions of square miles as millions upon millions of acres burned. The fires and coincident droughts brought Russian, Eastern European and Ukrainian grain production to its knees. The situation was so severe that Russia cut off grain exports, keeping all its production to feed its own citizens.

The effect to global food markets was apocalyptic. Food prices surged through 2010 and by 2011 peaked at an FAO index value of 229.9, the highest level yet on record. High food prices swiftly rippled through a number of the world’s most vulnerable regions and food riots, which had been sporadic, became national phenomena. Hardest hit were teetering nations in the Middle East that lacked the economic muscle to provide their populations with adequate food supplies. Egypt, Libya and Syria faced outright civil war and/or regime change due, in large share, to social stresses sparked by food scarcity.

Rising Threats for the Current Day

The world’s primary response to this major price spike was to simply plant more land. But as this new rush occurred, extreme weather got a radical boost. Sea ice losses, by end of summer 2012, had totaled more than 50% in area and extent values since 1979 while volume measures had brutally fallen by over 80%. As a result, the Arctic had lost about 4% of its albedo and was undergoing a period of rapid heat amplification. These changes would result in more persistent and severe Jet Stream patterns that would deliver an increasingly extreme battery of droughts and deluges to the Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile, warming had now resulted in an amplification of the global hydrological cycle by 6%. This amplification meant drying of the land came on more rapidly, setting the stage for intense drought initiation even in regions that weren’t seeing more stuck weather patterns.

As 2013 rolled into 2014 drought was widespread and severe in large zones from California to Brazil and Argentina, to Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, to China and Australia. Many of these droughts are among the worst and most widespread on record. Meanwhile, severe rainfall and wind events over Britain and Western Europe are also disrupting agriculture and causing direct damage or inundation of crops. And though the world was planting a massive number of acres during 2013-2014, the effects of these various and wide-ranging weather emergencies were again starting to take hold.

For by February of this year the world FAO index had risen to 208.1 — a level very close to 210 which is considered to be the point that high food prices begin to result in the potential for major social unrest worldwide.

High Risk Outlook for 2014

With so many regions experiencing drought, with human-caused climate change playing havoc with the world’s weather, and with the rising risk of a moderate-to-strong El Nino emerging in the Eastern Pacific, the world appears to be entering yet one more period of high risk for another major food shock. El Nino is traditionally known to produce drought in Australia and Southeast Asia. And while it is has not historically tended to coincide with drought in Russia and Eastern Europe, it does tend to shift weather patterns toward hot in those regions. With the hydrological cycle amped up by human-caused climate change and with ridges/blocking patterns more prevalent due to added atmospheric heat content and sea ice loss, it might be wise to consider the 2010 spate of extreme drought and fires in this region a potential risk as the year and a likely El Nino progresses.

Links:

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Lance-Modis

Growth Shock: Tragedy and Hope at the Limits of a Finite World

Is Meat Sustainable?

2010 Russian Wildfires

Russian Ban On Grain Exports Begins

Climate Change and Rising Food Prices Heightened Arab Spring

Arctic Albedo Falling at Twice Expected Rate

World Food Security in the Cross-Hairs of Human-Caused Climate Change

El Nino is Coming

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

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Drought Grows on Eve of Winter, 200 Mile Stretch of Mississippi Close to Shut Down

According to reports from the US Drought Monitor, a historic drought plaguing large swaths of the country since spring has again grown larger and more intense. Total areas under drought conditions are, once more, above 60% of the contiguous United States. This is about a 1.5 percent increase over last week’s drought measure. Severe and exceptional drought, the worst conditions measured, expanded to cover fully 19 percent of the contiguous US, also an increase of about 1.5 percent over last week’s measurement.

Hardest hit areas remain in or near the nation’s breadbasket. South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are states currently suffering the most from ongoing drought. Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Georgia, and Nevada are also feeling strong direct impacts.

Forecasts for the next few months show a persisting drought that will likely pose a continuing threat to US crops throughout the winter and on into spring, possibly extending again into summer. The potential for conditions to worsen, again, in Texas should be cause for watchful concern as the season progresses. Texas is still recovering from the extreme drought of 2010-2011. A second blow during 2013 would prove very harmful to the state’s agriculture.

Over the past few weeks, the US wheat crop has taken a severe hit from the persistent and now re-emerging drought. Crop conditions, as of about a week ago, were the worst seen in 27 years. Risks are currently very high that the US wheat harvest for this year will be substantially lower, resulting in higher food prices at home and an intensifying food crisis abroad.

In Missouri, an area which felt strong impacts to its corn crops before drought somewhat abated for the state, Mississippi River levels are again low enough to warrant concern of a shut-down. Annually, the Army Corps of Engineers cuts off river flows to the Mississippi in order to ensure adequate reservoir storage for next year and to protect against flooding from melt run-off. This year’s shut down may bring river levels as low as 6 feet, which would effectively cut off traffic along a 200 mile stretch of waterway. If this happens, as much as 7 billion dollars worth of grain may be stranded up-river. Much of this grain goes to international markets. Such a closure would both result in damages to local economies as well as, potentially, food shortages and increasing prices abroad.

The culprit for this lingering and increasingly damaging drought is likely a blocking high that has continued to emerge over the nation’s heartland, fixing the weather pattern there to one that is both hotter and dryer than normal. These huge dips and swells in the Jet Stream are spurred by eroding sea ice boundaries in the Arctic which result in large shifts to the circumpolar winds. In turn, these wind changes alter the Jet Stream, making the emergence of blocking patterns like the one enhancing the current US drought far more likely.

Climate models have also predicted much drier conditions for the US West as global temperatures rise from an average range of .6 degrees Celsius higher than normal to as much as 2 degrees Celsius higher than normal by 2040-2050. It is likely that we began to see this climate-change induced drying during the early 2000s as average global temperatures reached .6 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. Average global temps are now around .8 degrees Celsius higher and continuing to inch upward, so the US West is likely to experience periods of intensifying drought through the 2010s and worsening into the 2020s. By the 2030s and 2040s far worse conditions can only be avoided via large-scale curtailment of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.freep.com/usatoday/article/1721817?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Drought/

Historic US Drought Intensifies At Heart, Erodes at Fringes, Wheat Crop In Danger

A historic drought that began 8 months ago continues. Though this massive drought is slowly receding at the edges, covering 59% of the contiguous US, 1% less than last week, the drought is expanding and intensifying at its heart. More than 6% of the United States is suffering under exceptional drought, the most severe drought level. And more than 19% of the country is suffering under extreme drought conditions or worse.

Unfortunately, the area of extreme drought conditions is parked squarely over the United States breadbasket. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota are the hardest hit states. As a result the US wheat crop is under increasingly severe risk. Soil moisture levels are plummeting and many areas are experiencing top ten hottest and driest months for this time of year. Surface water reserves were also growing more and more scarce. As as a result, grazing regions for livestock are drying out.

For Texas and Oklahoma, this is the second major drought in as many years. For the US west, the time period from 2000 to now has been the fifth driest period in 500 years, experiencing a succession of droughts and dry spells. Climate models have indicated that droughts would become more frequent over time as human caused climate change worsened. Unfortunately, conditions over the next few decades will only continue to grow worse — far moreso if human fossil fuel emissions are not dramatically cut back. By the time 2050 rolls around, without serious cuts in CO2, the US heartland is all mostly desert. A transition to these extreme conditions would be devastating to US food and national security.

Globally, the world has experienced severe droughts in growing regions of the US, Europe, and Russia. The result is very low worldwide grain stocks. The UN has warned that if any more ‘unforeseen events’ occur, the world will almost certainly slip into a food crisis. Global governments and leaders continue to ignore warnings from climate scientists and food monitors. This situation is unconscionable and, if it worsens, will likely result in crisis, sporadic and growing hunger, and political instability.

Links:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/automotive/sns-rt-us-usa-droughtbre8a716v-20121108,0,2326994.story

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Sandy Misses Areas of US Suffering From Drought, Over 60% of Land Still Affected, US Winter Wheat Conditions Worst in 27 Years

Despite receiving record precipitation over a broad swath of territory, more than 60% of the United States is still suffering from a historic and global warming-induced drought. Sandy provided some mitigation for drought conditions in the Eastern and Mid-Western sections of the US. However, drought conditions were largely unchanged over broad swaths of the Western US and Heartland.

As a result, the US is now suffering its worst winter wheat harvest conditions in at least 27 years. Monitoring began in 1985, so it is impossible to know how far back one would have to go to find conditions similar to what is being experienced now. Just 40 percent of the current wheat crop is rated good to excellent. Fully 15 percent is rated poor to very poor.

“The low crop ratings will increase concern about the yield potential of this year’s crop,”Shawn McCambridge, the senior grain analyst for Jefferies Bache LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview to Bloomberg. “The weather doesn’t look promising for much improvement and may increase overseas demand for supplies left from last year’s U.S. harvest.”

The US corn crop is down 13 percent from last year. The US soybean crop is also down, showing a 7 percent loss from the year prior. Some of the remaining crops may have been damaged by Sandy as it raged over a large section of the Eastern US earlier this week.

Wheat losses similar to those suffered by US corn and soybean crops pose a risk for pushing the world’s food situation into a state of crisis. Throughout October, the UN has been warning of the potential for a spreading food crisis should any more ‘unforeseen events’ materialize.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-31/u-s-winter-wheat-condition-worst-in-27-years-as-drought-lingers.html

Over 90,000 Americans Sign Petition For Climate Change Question At Debate

Since 1988, every Presidential debate has included the issue of climate change. Yet this year, in a year when Arctic sea ice fell to levels nearly 50% below 1988, in a year when the entire Greenland ice sheet experienced melt, in a year when scientists are saying a historic drought was made worse by climate change, in a year of record fires around the globe and during a year when Atlantic tropical storms are more than twice as numerous as during a regular season, the issue of climate change has not come up once.

This is nothing short of travesty. It should have been an issue critical to each debate, something as important to our economy and future as jobs creation and the budget deficit. Yet one candidate, Mitt Romney, is on record saying he doesn’t even believe in the mountain of scientific evidence behind human-caused climate change. And in all the debates, thus far, no question on the issue has been posed.

Perhaps the moderators do not feel that 75 billion in climate change damages via the current US drought is a subject worthy of discussion. Or perhaps these same moderators are happy to ignore the fact that the UN has declared the world on the brink of a food crisis, should any other ‘unforeseen events’ take place?

Looking at the above compilation of debates on the issue of climate change, it would seem that we have ignored the issue for far too long and that the increasingly severe weather and damage is now upon us. And, at such a time, we have now decided the issue isn’t worthy of discussion? To draw such a conclusion would truly reveal us to be a stupid, short-sighted and callous race. For the failure to deal with this problem does not just affect each of us now living. It impacts the lives of all people, all creatures yet unborn. It affects the life, all life, of our world. And we are brutish, terrible, and, yes, wholly maniacal if we ignore it.

Please join those who have signed the petition for a climate change question at tonight’s debate:

http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-about-climate-change-at-the-presidential-debates

More than anything, this issue is one that affects us all.

Links:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/22/1057251/will-this-be-the-first-time-the-debates-are-silent-on-climate-since-1984/

Historic US Drought Shows Slight Improvement Overall, Worsens in Some Areas, 69 Percent of Winter Wheat Crop Threatened

According to this week’s Drought Monitor, the ongoing historic drought, made worse by global warming, still grips a large swath of the United States despite cooler temperatures and two rain systems sweeping through the central US.

Overall, US drought coverage fell to 62% of the contiguous US, a 2% fall from last week and a three percent fall from the maximum drought area reached this year. However, large swaths of the US and, in particular, US farmland are still struggling under drought. Though some areas on the eastern fringes of the larger drought zone saw improvement, other areas such as South Dakota and Nebraska saw intensifying dryness.

Reports from farmers this week also showed that the winter wheat crop had been put at risk due to ongoing drought conditions. Usually, cooler temperatures and rains bring a respite to drought conditions during this time of year. However, a fall dryness is allowing drought to maintain its grip over much of the country. Currently, over 69 percent of the areas normally planted for winter wheat are suffering from some level of drought. Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana have been particularly hard hit. Seed germination is well behind schedule in most regions and many farmers are not willing to take the risk of planting in such dry conditions. The result is a major risk to US wheat crops after a difficult corn planting season across the US.

Under current drought conditions, the US is now consuming more food than it produces. This rare event is having widespread impact on world food markets. Overall world food security has been dealt a sever blow since the early 2000s when forward food supplies were higher than 104 days. But six of the past eleven years have seen extreme weather conditions that resulted in the world consuming more food than it produced. As a result, forward food supply has fallen, on average, to 74 days. Recently, the UN noted that the world’s food markets were currently strained to the limit and couldn’t bear any more ‘unexpected events.’ But a major unexpected event continues apace over most of the US.

Climate scientists are showing that such dry conditions will likely grow worse over the coming years if both the US and the world fail to begin to reduce carbon emissions. Sadly, some drought will likely happen in the coming decades even if carbon emissions are rolled back. But the devastation that is likely to occur if carbon emissions continue on their current track is unconscionable. Climate models show that both large swaths of the US and much of Europe become as dry as north Africa. This devastation to major productive regions would be very damaging to the world’s food security and likely result in major regional and global upheavals. Yet this condition, which is starting now and which will grow worse over time, is being largely ignored by the world’s leaders. In particular, the US has one political party that wholesale denies the impacts of global warming. This denial is as destructive to our farmers as it is poisonous to our political climate. If we are to deal rationally with these problems and, likely, if we are to survive as a nation, this self-destructive, brutish and and small-minded denial must end.

We have entered the gates of a crisis and we need all hands to be alert and ready to defend the ship, not knocking holes in the hull.

Links

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.agprofessional.com/news/Drought-threatens-winter-wheat-planting-174108971.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iv-drip/climate-change-denial-is-a-rightwing-conspiracy-8215887.html

 

 

Romney Gunning to Kill US Wind, Solar Industries, Enforce Monopoly of Dirty, Dangerous, and Depleting Fuels

Today Mitt Romney held a speech on the border of Texas and New Mexico where he laid out his plans for the US’s energy future. And if two words come to mind from his proposals they are these: Robbery and Ruin.

Just yesterday, Romney received more than $10 million dollars in campaign contributions from the coal and oil industry. Money he is trying to hand back many times over in special perks, subsidies, and give-aways to his big polluting backers.

First, Romney proposes to take public lands from the people of the US and hand it over to states who would then be encouraged to give these land rights, free of charge, to oil, gas, and coal companies. He would take a resource in the public trust, one of America’s great treasures, and hand it over to what amounts to a group of corporate looters. The ghost of Teddy Roosevelt must be turning over in his grave as Romney offers up this sacrifice to his corporate masters. For it would result in public lands being transformed from something like this:

Into something like this:

 

Romney’s second big giveaway is to cut taxes for the highly profitable oil companies again. I say again because it was the same thing Bush did when he was elected back in 2000. And it is also ironic to see a massive influx of Bush energy advisers finding places of prominence on Romney’s energy team.

This year, oil companies already received more than 2.3 billion dollars in subsidies and tax assistance. This public support after having recorded over $137 billion dollars in profits. But Romney seems to think that greed is its own virtue and has decided to give another 2.4 billion away in additional tax breaks. This 5 billion dollars in tax-payer support each year would come on top of record profits from the highest oil prices ever and the great American land giveaway described above.

But Romney’s plan goes still further. Romney would cut regulations that keep coal companies from dumping massive volumes of mercury into the air and water. Coal companies have often complained that the public health protection measure is too expensive. But what Romney and his coal backers don’t reveal is that the added pollution kills more than 30,000 people each year. For Romney and big coal, profits are far more important than lives. So the protections for Americans must go.

In general, all these policies draw support from a vast and ongoing denial over the damage caused to the United States by an intensifying climate crisis. Just this year alone, over $100 billion in damages will likely be inflicted on the US economy by a number of climate-related disasters. Romney’s push to double down on big oil and big coal will only worsen the damage that is still to come.

Romney’s plan is first a dire insult to American interests in the form of a giveaway to a destructive industry. Romney’s plan is second a harm that results in added toxins spewed into the atmosphere and an ever-decreasing likelihood of dealing with the ongoing climate crisis.

But the crowning black jewel to the whole dark and devastating Romney energy policy is this: attack the wind and solar industry.

Romney plans to bring down all competitors to oil and coal through direct policy measures. He is gunning to devastate the wind and solar industry by removing the production tax credit even as he pushes to further subsidize the heavily polluting oil and coal industries. His plan would gut US innovation and progress in wind and solar energy. It would cede leadership in a 2 trillion dollar alternative energy market to China and Germany. And it would result in the loss of tens of thousands of US jobs. Worse, it would remove the prospect for creating hundreds of thousands more jobs in the future and shackle us to an energy source that is bound to abandon us during our hour of greatest need.

Republicans and Romney often deride industries that require subsidy support. However, the oil and coal industry still receive subsidies after more than 150 years of operations. The level of subsidies they receive is far higher than those of the burgeoning alternative energy industry. Typically, for a new industry to effectively get off the ground it needs a higher level of support than a traditional, established industry. And considering that the oil industry has become so profitable through its effective cornering, total dominance and monopolization of all transportation markets, giving it any subsidy at all simply amounts to paying tribute to a tyrant. It is unnecessary, wasteful, and encourages the worst behavior.

Yet this is exactly what Romney and Ryan are pushing to double down on. And they would lay the slain carcass of the alternative energy industry at the feet of their fossil fuel masters.

Given the intensifying climate crisis. Given the depleting and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Given the need for America to create sustainable jobs in a sustainable industry. And given the fact that if we fail to lead in the alternative energy revolution, others will in our stead, it is absolutely necessary that the American public reject Romney. Reject Ryan. Reject robbing from the American people for the profit of special interests and reject policies that will ruin our future. And, last of all, reject the vicious and anti-American agenda of the oil and coal company barons who stand behind them.

Record US Drought Deepens, 61 Percent of Country Suffering From Some Level of Drought

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The most recent report from NOAA shows a current record US drought deepening with more than 61% of the country now suffering from extreme conditions.

The worst drought in 25 years has severely impacted US agriculture. According to the monitor, in the US’s 18 primary corn-producing states, 30 percent of the corn crop is now in poor or very poor condition. Earlier this year, a combination of increased demand and poor conditions last year resulted in more than 48% of US corn stockpiles being wiped out. In response, the US began planting its largest corn crop ever in May. Now, unprecedented widespread drought conditions are threatening that crop.

The result is that food prices are steadily rising. This Thursday, corn prices had risen by as much as 4% by end of trading. Since mid June prices for corn had risen more than 33%, with prices of wheat jumping 23% and prices of soy rising 13%.

These rising prices reflect anxiety on the part of grain consumers from China to the Middle East and many other places around the world. The crisis has caused many to wonder if this year may be a repeat of 2010, when severe drought damaged Russia’s wheat crop and sent prices soaring. The food scarcity that followed sparked food riots throughout the Middle East and served as a flash-point for the Arab Spring.

This year, threatening conditions include the consistent dryness in the US, another dry year in the Russian wheat belt and the worst start to India’s Monsoon season in three years. These factors have caused increased concerns that regions will impose export restrictions in order to preserve local food security, to the detriment of food importers.

Food security in recent years has also been harmed by the emergence of ‘just in time’ supply, where stockpiles are winnowed down in favor of a rapid response market and delivery system. Such a system works fine so long as abundant supplies are available. But the system is not resilient to crisis events, where the lack of available food in the event of yearly or multi-year droughts can have dramatic impacts on world food security.

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