On air: Are you worried about rising food prices?

Hi Chloe here,

this is an issue that has come up a lot at our editorial meetings over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday the UN’s top humanitarian official Sir John Holmes, has warned that escalating food prices will trigger protests and riots in vulnerable nations. He said food scarcity and soaring fuel prices would compound the damaging effects of global warming. Prices have risen 40% on average globally since last summer. In recent days it’s lead to riots in Haiti and protests by farmers in Argentina.

Here are the contributing factors….

* More animals are needed to feed the emerging markets in India and China

* Rising oil prices

* Land previously used to grow crops now being used to supply the growing bio fuel market

* Climate change

So many countries around the world are affected by rising food prices that we could spend the whole programme listing them. So we’ve decided to focus on 3 for the purposes of today’s show.

* In India the government has curbed rice exports to ensure there is enough for their own people.

* In Argentina farmers have suspended a three week strike over increases in export tax on soya and other agricultural produce.

* In Ivory coast has forced the government to cancel custom duties and cut taxes on basic household products.

Are we facing a new era of more expensive food? Many people are now talking about a global food crisis – with no end in sight – do you agree? And who do you blame for this?



70 Responses to “On air: Are you worried about rising food prices?”

  1. 1 John in Salem
    April 9, 2008 at 14:38

    This has all been predicted for decades by the U.N. and by numerous think tanks and study groups all over the world and every country that has ignored those warnings and failed to act is to blame.
    Welcome to the future. If you think this is bad, just wait.

  2. April 9, 2008 at 14:56

    Here are the contributing factors….

    * More animals are needed to feed the emerging markets in India and China

    What a perfect time for Americans and other countries to consider vegetarianism 😉 With americans eating on average 200 pounds of meat per year. And that meat being the most environmentally costly and land intensive part of the diet, along with being the most expensive, maybe people will start to realize that it is not only healthier, cheaper, and more sustainable to become vegetarian… But it will allow the current land use used for meat production and grazing to be converted into more productive farmland.

    * Rising oil prices
    Maybe more people will be willing to pay the extra penny to buy local to help curb this problem.

    * Land previously used to grow crops now being used to supply the growing bio fuel market
    Yes, but more land is being cleared for the displaced crops through deforestation. Also land unsuitable for farming is being used to grow biofuel crops too such as switchgrass.
    The biofuel market which claims foodstuffs will calm down soon enough when people realize the effect it is having on food prices. Hopefully we will be able to refine the process to use the food waste such as stalks, chips, etc. into making biofuel, while using the produce of the plant to feed people.

    * Climate change
    This and a massive drying of many of the vast sections of farmland throughout the world *see America Midwest-Southwest, Australia, etc*

    So many countries around the world are affected by rising food prices that we could spend the whole programme listing them. So we’ve decided to focus on 3 for the purposes of today’s show.

    * In India the government has curbed rice exports to ensure there is enough for their own people.

    Bravo for them, with Indians having one of the more sustainable average diets in the world hopefully this will be able to offset their enormous population.

    Are we facing a new era of more expensive food?
    Yes we most certainly are. As Steve said in a previous post, the worlds farmable land is finite. Population continues to grow. The problem will only get worse.

    Many people are now talking about a global food crisis – with no end in sight – do you agree? And who do you blame for this?

    I agree. Who do I blame? Society as a whole. There are so many contributing factors to blame that I don’t think I could even begin to identify the tip of the iceburg.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  3. 3 Ahmad Hammad
    April 9, 2008 at 15:01

    With the technological advancement, we will finally be successful in coping with this grave situation of food-shortage and a price hike in the basic necessities. Science is a blessing that extends its hands of technologies to human beings for overcoming any persisting problems. Look at the Plague epidemic. In the last century, it was simply the other name of death. But now, that’s been vanished. Same goes with TB, Polio, Dyptheria and Measles.

    All we need is honesty at the executive level. In countries where feudal lords still steer the society, every day is a black day. Shortage of food could be one glimpse of it.

    Though, I’m probably over-simplifying the problem, yet the regions you have mentioned above, especially India and Pakistan, greatly suffer from the Feudal Syndrome.

    Feudal lords like leeches suck the blood of the poor, the have-nots.

    The only remedy to such crises is Justice.
    If justice is done to every member of the society, the problems could be over come easily. And if the problem persists at all, the bitterness loses its intensity in a just society. And then human beings, forming a brothern, collectively struggle to defeat the crisis.

    As a bottom line, I must say that looking at the courage-garlanded history of mankind, one can easily predict that food-shortage/price hike in food is NOT going to stay.

    It’s not a challenge to one nation. It’s a challenge to human beings collectively. So, the response will be the collective one.

  4. 4 George USA
    April 9, 2008 at 15:08

    Riots in Haiti are the danger world wide-

    Haitians were the edge of starvation before, now face death by starvation- Nothing to Loss.

    OPEC, speculators and Oil Companies may spark world wide anarchy food rioting.

    The now retired Exxon CEO (triple chins), Dick Chenney, Bush clan, the Saudi Royals, and Enron-like oil traders all pop into mind.

    This may not be fair, but I cannot keep these people from coming to mind.

  5. 5 CarlosK
    April 9, 2008 at 15:08

    Good day WHYS bloggers and friends

    As a native of a developing country (Jamaica), I see and know firsthand the devastating and deletarious effects of rising food and energy prices. Last year inflation , in Jamaica, move from single digits to 18% and this year counter and baking prices have increased more than 30%. The signs for instability look very “promising” here and in Haiti our french speaking neighbour, there are riots taking place because of increased food prices.

    We should all be worried about the negative effects of escalating food prices, if we are indeed our brothers keep. But being worried is not enough what are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue feed animals and engines the food that people need to eat? Are we going to continue our bad environmental practices (such as driving large trucks/pick-up and suvs- gas gusslers) which are contributiong to global warming? Are we going to continue supporting George Bush and John McCanin who believe in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that are making the middle east and the world unstable and is the main contributing factor to increased fuel prices?

    Saying that we are worried while sitting like Nero who was playing the fiddle while Rome was burning is not going to fix the problem. I hope and pray the programme today won’t be a talk shop but it will seek to be solutions orient because we who live in the developing contries of the world feel it and know it- HE WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT! HUNGER SHOULD NOT BE BE EXPLAINED AWAY AND DEBATED- IT IS ONLY KNOW BY THOSE WHO HAVE BEING MADE HUNGRY.

    Carlos, Kingston- Jamaica

  6. April 9, 2008 at 15:13

    There was this bloody strike action in Cameroon in February which grounded all commercial and other activities in five major Provincial towns and cities and the underlying grievance was the rising cost of living and basic foodstuff. Food items like palm oil and garri used to be considered as a poor man’s diet but this is no longer the case as the pirces of these commodities have spiralled out of the reach of the ordinary man. As a fallout of this strike action, our governement promised to reduce the price of these basic foodstuff come April 1. This date came and passed and someone thought history was dead. There has not been any significant move to curb these prices.
    I blame the hike in prices in part to the export of basic foodstuff from Cameroon to neighbouring nations like Gabon and Equatorial Guinea when we are not food self-sufficient. I think suppliers and business minded individuals must first consider the needs of their home countries before they seek quick profits through exports.

  7. April 9, 2008 at 15:15

    Food prices have become expensive for the low-paid categories of third world societies. Rich countries, especially in Europe aren’t feeling the crunch because they have the technological means to keep the production stable as they have the money to import the food they can’t crow from developing countries on agriculture.

    Food has become the new divide between the rich and the poor. Many governments are concerned about keeping their populations reasonably fed before they become face with bread riots as it is now happening in many countries around the world. The well known cases are in Egypt, a principally desert country with a population topping 70 million people.

    In Morocco, the basic commodities for the Moroccan population have seen a sharp increase surpassing 50% for cooking oil and more than 60% for flour in less than a year, despite these commodities being subsidized by the government.

    The cost of living in Morocco has increased because of the soaring prices of housing, electricity and water bills among other things while the wages are so far frozen, despite an increase not exceeding 10% for salaried workers while the private sector is reluctant to increase wages for its workers, citing foreign competition as the main factor. An increase in wages means an increase in the products sold at home and abroad in face of Chinese competition among other things.

    Hunger is a concern for the have and the have not as it will intensify social tensions and the level of crimes, especially among the unemployed and the heavily disadvantaged populations. There is no need to return to historical periods when hunger because of droughts followed with diseases used to sweep a large proportion of the world population.

    Such a situation should be a wakeup call for scientists to concentrate on the means to produce cheap food needing little land and water. But it’s the economic calculations that stand in the way of improving the world food program. There are food companies fearful of the plunge in prices. For them food shortage means rapid benefits.

    Currently the Earth can feed more than its current population. But the economic difficulties and the lack of cooperation between nations that makes lands remain barren. What if the world changes its tactics in fighting terror? The looming universal hunger can the great terror awaiting at least poor countries. There are no armies to maintain peace if there are no full stomachs making people consider what best to make with their lives instead of daily continuous struggle to get basic food that their pockets can’t afford.

  8. April 9, 2008 at 15:21

    This is really a serious issue, especially for ‘developing’ countries like Jamaica. Though regarded as a ‘middle income country’, according to UNICEF and other international aid agencies, Jamaicans are under tremendous strain to cope with the soaring food prices. It was good to hear yesterday that the British Government has written off 5 million pounds of our debts to them for 2007 – monies which may be used to begin to this problem, internally.

    It is my wish, however, that in addition to this there is a recognition by some of the more powerful, developed nations that while the search for bio fuels is a great objective there has to be a happy medium struck between that and the likelihood of starvation in other parts of the not-so-devloped-world.

  9. 9 CarlosK
    April 9, 2008 at 15:25

    Good day WHYS bloggers and viewers

    As a native of the developing world, I know firsthand the devastating effects on spending power of escalating inflation. Last year it increased from single digits (Jamaica) to 18% per annum. And this year counter flour and baking flour prices have increased by over 30%. If this trend continues many people are going to suffer from malnutrition in the least and starvation in the worst case scenario.

    But being worried is not good enough what are we going to do about the escalating food prices? Firstly, we need to STOP feeding food meant for human beings to animals and engines. We need to stop driving large trucks and pick-ups dnd suv that are gas guzzlers. We need to stop contributing to global warming.

    The American electorate should vote out the Republican party along with George Bush and John McCain who are supporters of the war in Iraq which is the main reason for why the middle east and the world in general is unstable and is directly contributiong to increased fuel prices, energy and food prices.

    Sitting like Nero and playing our fiddles while the world burns will not solve the problem. I hope the On Air programme today will not be another talk shop but will contribute to finding solutions to this crisis. Please ensure that we have at least one guest who knows what being hungry is because Hunger cannot be explained or rationalized- it is not theory. It is a dreadful practice reality for too many of our fellow human beings. Haitians are rioting because of the pangs of hunger in their stomachs.

    Carlos, Kingston- Jamaica

  10. 10 Angelina
    April 9, 2008 at 15:36

    Hi!Yes,I am worried about rising food prices.The United States is trying to alleviate the insecurity regarding availability of oil by converting grain like corn & soybean into fuels which we know as Biofuels.As a result,grain prices are escalating in an unprecedented manner.The tortilla demonstrations in Mexico,pasta protests in Italy,soaring bread prices in Pakistan and inflation of food prices everywhere underline how serious this issue is.It’s the developing countries who will be the most affected.For the poor,even basic food items are becoming unaffordable.
    Using grains to produce fuel is causing massive deforestation especially in the Amazon,one of the richest sources of biodiversity.This in turn will lead to climate change on a huge scale.In a choice between food and biofuel,people will definitely opt for food.

  11. April 9, 2008 at 15:38

    I believe corperations such as Monsanto should also bear some of the blame. They hold patents to genetically modified seeds. As a result, Monsanto takes the freedom away from farmers by coercing and intimidating them to buy their genetically modified seeds.

    P.S. Yesterday you e-mailed me to talk on the show. Sorry, I didn’t check my e-mail till that evening…maybe next time.

  12. 12 said taha
    April 9, 2008 at 15:49

    i live in kuwait and i’m recently imployed. food prices rose sharply here and evr one suffering.

  13. April 9, 2008 at 16:16

    Govt has banned more imports of wheat and it’s products, though the prices of wheat is too much for poor kenyans already burdened by post election violence.
    FOOD prices have soared resulting in panick.
    WITH THE ALREADY shaky peace deal, Kenyans are being treated to even higher prices. Already, tension is building up in Nairobi and it’s suburbs including, (very important) Africa,s biggest slum_Kibera.
    Scarce rain, poor road network worsens the situation.
    Bread, previously sold at ksh 24 is now ksh 40 a kg of sugar goes for 100 and fuel prices terrible.
    Poor governance, poor agricultural policies, Election dabacle and highest cost of fertilises(ksh 400 up from 1200) poor transport, and dysfunctional govt…..there is little hope.
    if Kibaki and Raila do not agree soon, …more fire.
    kerich kipsang in bomet kenya)

  14. 14 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 16:24

    I have a question for the more economic savvy bloggers out there. Why haven’t rising food prices resulted in better profits for farmers in developing countries? Obvioulsy this isn’t happening, or doesn’t seem to be happening since we are on this topic of food prices right now. It just seems that if food prices are rising so much, that should be reflected in rising agricultural profits?

    On a side topic, I would like to point out that using stalks and crop detritous for bio fuels is NOT purely a good thing. While you may get more biofuel by utilizing the entire plant, this means that you are taking even more productivity out of the land with every crop because that detritous is not being tilled and decomposed back into the soil. Which means more fertilizers and artificial inputs, which bleed off into the environment and cause more pollution and water problems, and which is less sustainable in the long-term.

    On top of that, transporting stalks and plant detritous requires a significant output of energy in and of itself. If enough energy can’t be acquired from the detritous, then the benefits of using such is marginal at best.

  15. 15 Mohammed Ali
    April 9, 2008 at 16:29

    The rising cost of food in the world is somthing worrisome to everybody esspecially for us in third world countries. I think those developed countries that are involed in process of making biofuel with grains or rice need to rethink that process so as to the world from hunger disaster.

  16. 16 eric swenson
    April 9, 2008 at 16:39

    not enough food? thank you eco-hysterics and techno-phobes! shortsighted policies like the eu’s rush to legislate the mandatory use of biofuels have helped to cause the world’s food shortage. of course the world’s rush to stop the fictional “man-made” global warming, has the politically correct crowd’s hysterical over reaction. yes there is global warming but it has nothing to do with man. proof? just check the recently released nasa photo showing the polar ice cap on mars melting! there is no martian carbon footprint or green house gases. global warming is caused by increased solar activity. does anyone out there understand basic economics. the price of oil goes up in direct relation to the demand for it. the price of food has gone up because of the price of fuel needed to produce food. biofuels require more energy to produce than the energy they create. they also produce lower miles per gallon than gasoline when used in vehicles, so you need to burn more of it to go the same distance. the solution? end all biofuel production worldwide and put all those fields back into food production. as to lowering petroleum use, lower the maximum speed limit on roadways and enforce the laws. going to a 55mph speed limit would lower our gas consumption more than 10%. if 10% more fuel hits the market the price will go down.

  17. April 9, 2008 at 16:42

    sorry I was unreacheable, I couldn’t participate in live show the other day.
    Poor Africa, burdened by Bob(zimbabwe) Kibaki(kenya) Gadaffi(Libya) tyrannies and presidents_for_ life is going to feel the pain even more.
    corruption, unequal distribution of resources, misuse of public funds, lack of farmer support, rural to urban migration leading to shortage of labour, and destruction of forests(leading to low rainfall) are the greatest reasons for soaring food prices in Africa and kenya in particular.
    Kerich Kipsang in Bomet, Kenya

  18. 18 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 17:07

    Mar’s polar caps are dry ice, which is very different than Earth’s polar ice, if I remember correctly. Just because they both might be melting doesn’t mean they are caused by the same effect.

    There are reasons beyond miles per liter to use biofuels. Petroleum reserves are limited, and shifting to oil sands and other reserve types will cause prices to rise even futher. Bio fuels allow petroleum reserves to be stretched further while a better fuel source is developed.

  19. April 9, 2008 at 17:14

    And again to reply to Eric,

    not enough food? thank you eco-hysterics and techno-phobes!

    I would more appropriately thank the booming growth in world population, and many recent crop and livestock disasters stemming from disease and drought first before turning around and blaming eco-hysterics’ and techno-phobes’ biofuels as the sole reason for food shortages.
    Also, quite a bit of the land used for biofuels either comes from deforested areas or the crop/grazing lands which biofuels replaced have moved to deforested areas. This is land that was unused previously even for food production. Not all of the land used in biofuel production was taken from food bearing crops.

    if 10% more fuel hits the market the price will go down.
    Maybe for a brief moment, but this is all assuming the following:
    – Oil companies don’t just reduce their output to keep supply / demand level and thus allow for their profit level to remain as high as it is now.
    – Oil companies even bother to lower the price of oil / gas (remember, 2007 saw record breaking profit levels for the big dogs)
    – Stupid US consumers and developing countries won’t negate the 10% decrease in consumption of fuel by buying more personal busses and SUV’s
    – The amount of cars on the road does not increase thus negating the decrease in fuel consumption (not happening).
    – The worlds oil needs do not increase, again negating the 10% decrease marked in consumption (again, not likely to happen).
    – The production of oil remains constant (not likely to happen, remember, oil is a finite resource… and for those running around claiming “We’ll get it from Canadian tar sands”, well, you’ve got another thing coming if you think that it will be cheap, and clean oil)
    – All of the other countless factors to negate a 10% decrease in oil demand remain static (not likely to happen).

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va

  20. 20 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 9, 2008 at 17:24

    Hi, everyone! 🙂

    I’m from Colombia, a country with a great diversity of food… However, lately we’ve been having a dramatic impact in the price of food because of the effects of global warming, weather and policies imposed in the country. Also, disturbed relationships with other countries – specially Venezuela – are affecting somehow food prices. Then I’m able to say “Yes, I’m worried!”. Unfortunately, and in spite of the large amount of food we produce in our lands, productions costs and policies are affecting our pocket. And we have ho hope for decreasing prices, as usual…

  21. 21 Will Rhodes
    April 9, 2008 at 17:24

    not enough food? thank you eco-hysterics and techno-phobes! shortsighted policies like the eu’s rush to legislate the mandatory use of biofuels have helped to cause the world’s food shortage

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Bio-fuels are not the way forward – hydrogen is.

  22. 22 Devadas via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:41

    the policy makers who over the years world wide who didnt heed the warning of who is who prediction of shortage of food stuffs and rising prices are the one who has to be primarily blamed for.
    and rather than treating this rising price rise cancer wounds at its roots to eradicate it in future with policy making for long term measures still the worldwide policy makers are going for short term measures for eg subsidies,debtrelief etc rather than promoting agriculture .added to this is the urge for using edible food stuffs for bio fuel even in aero fuels .
    in india this short term measures are of no use .just by banning export the shortage is not going to be solved in india .try to ban vacation trading done by indian supermarket giants werein agricultural produce all are booked in bulk even before sowing thus creating shortage in market as in present .the reliance,spencers etc have a big hand in this with active support of the government in centre and state.
    in our budget 60000crores have been waived for the farmers this are the short cut methods done by indian government rather than promoting agriculture.
    in my state kerala once a rice barn of india now all agricultural land is being filled as land prices have soared to record level thus causing death of farming over in these state.
    in my region kannur 3kms away 4500 acres of once fertile farming land in kakkad wetland area has now being all filled up causing death to the kakkadriver and the one crop farming and fishing which was the livelyhood for thousands of families some 40 years back.then the state government promised the kakkad people that when a dam across kannadiparamba comes kakkad will have 3crop agriculture and fishing .now after spending 250crores on dam and other 200 crores on pazhassicanal project end result is that kakkad people lost their one crop plus fishing now they are going to lose even the river as its all filled up by land mafia .in this food crisis if this farm land was there whole of kannur could have been fed from this kakkad region as sees over here used for farming would have survived floods and it grows in water to say eg pokkali seeds.(blog at kakkadpuzha .com).
    now all that farmers over there has become from selfsufficient individuals to manual labourers .this way all across india due to the visionless policy makers india once 70%agricultural farmers who were self sufficient has become mere coolies facing rising prices and shortage of food stuffs .wereit all leads too only time will tell .world also is facing the same problem .haiti like situation will rise first in underdeveloped countries first and like the tibetan protest spreading across countries werever the olympic flame goes this food shortage and price rise will have catastrophic effect in the time to come across the continents effecting the poor and refugees the most .
    all this rather than treat cancer from its roots the policy makers put bandaid plaster on the wounds just to cover up the wounds ,end result its having catastrophic effect which still left unchecked will lead to calamity as the happenings of haiti shows?
    Devedas, karala, India

  23. 23 Jean via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:43

    Of course I am worried about the rising cost of food. I live on a fixed income and between food and the rising price of gasoline for my car I have really slowed down my activities. I try to use coupons when I shop and have changed some of my eating habits because of it. I know that I am lucky to have enough money to go grocery shopping and I appreciate it, but I have also worked all my life to get it and now in the “golden years” can start worrying about eating, driving, traveling and my children and their families and will they have enough.

    The problem of not enough food for the world population has gone on for a long, long time and let’s look at Zimbabwe, for instance. Throwing out or killing the white farmers that had the large productive farms producing food for that country was stupid. No plan for the people of Zimbabwe to continue having a productive nation and they are starving, their money is worthless, there’s nothing to buy and they have a greedy old and very rich old man, Mugabe, still clinging to the presidency. In truth he will never suffer and will never do without anything and never has.

    High prices of food, or not enough food, seems to be a world wide issue. Egypt has been in the papers here because of protesting the high prices of food and poor wages. But let’s not forget that the leaders never starve (if you check most of them are fat and happy) and the people of their countries do without. What a system !!!!!

    Enough said. I am mad……..sorry about that…..


  24. April 9, 2008 at 17:43

    To Justin from Iowa,

    Rising food prices ARE contributing to increased profits in the industry – and free market economists hope that these will be sufficient to increase production to meet demand (but how many people will starve first..?).

    However, the majority of the riots that have occurred so far have been in countries which have to import a lot of their grain – some of these countries delayed the buying of their rice this year because they thought the high prices were a temporary blip. They left it too long and now cannot afford to import what is needed.

    The poor who will be most affected by the increases are the urban poor in developing countries. Some governments, even in richer countries such as Argentina, are limiting their exports in order to protect their urban consumers from world market prices. This is reducing the availability of grain for the importing countries, inflating those market prices even further.

    A lot of these importing countries, such as Jamaica and Ghana, have had their local agricultural industries damaged by food dumping from the US and the EU, meaning that they became reliant on cheap imports. This is something that has surprisingly also happened in Japan, which I am currently writing about on my blog.

    Thank you for your points on biofuels, we need to work on replenishing the land’s natural ability to grow food, not reducing it further by burning plants.

    Kind regards,

    Freddy Greaves

  25. 25 Nicola via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:43

    Of course this is a global concern – we need to look at the underlying cause which is an environmental issue..less land able to sustain growth of food due to climate extremes.
    All this affects global economies thus trickling down to the man on the street. Eventually, we will be fighting over a grain of rice!

    Nicola, Jamaica

  26. 26 Muthee via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:45

    Hi Chloe and the rest of the team.
    The topic of today’s show is right on the spot more so for countries that are already compounded by problems like Kenya even though we are not on the list of your discussion.
    The rising food prices have adversely affected even the way people relate to each other with many people blaming it on the election aftermath turmoil and basically blaming it on the side of the political divide that one deems started the mess.
    The crunch is obviously felt across the third world more than anywhere else but still you hear the developed countries talking about EPA s while we know they have subsidized their farmers.

    Muthee Mwangi, Kenya

  27. 27 savane
    April 9, 2008 at 17:45

    Hi. Yes, I’m worried about the rising food costs in Kenya that have been caused by:
    • Post-election violence, which hit the Rift Valley province, which is Kenya’s ‘bread basket’, the hardest, not just for exports, but for local consumption too – produce rotted in the fields because they couldn’t be harvested or reach the market, or were burnt (by rivals); a planting season was lost for the same reasons; there’s still a backlog clearing imports at our port in Mombasa – some products have expired before they leave the port;
    • Climate change – we still rely heavily on rainfall for farming, and El Nino’s and La Nina’s mutant sibling (haven’t found a PC name for ‘it’ yet!) has reared its heads!
    • Oil prices – one litre of fuel is US$1.60. It would. Be more if the USD wasn’t falling. Fuel was about US$1.30 pre-elections (Dec. ’07)

    And to add insult to injury, our new ‘coalition government’. In the making want to set a 40-man Cabinet. Let me put that into context for you: that’s 40 ministers, at least 40-80 Assistant Ministers, 80 Permanent Secretaries, all with newly-furnished offices, cars and security details befitting their status! And we haven’t yet included the pay hike the 222 MPs will make the first order of business when Parliament is back in session (yes, they’re already on recess after 2 days’ work since January ’08)!

    And guess who’s paying for this? Here’s a clue: it’s not the Cabinet or the MPs.

    Nairobi Kenya

  28. 28 chawezi via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:46

    Dear Chloe and everyone else at WHYS desk,

    Are you worried about rising food prices? What a topic and all the controversies it surrounds.

    The world is at a crossroad and what we need is an urgent solution to this food crisis that has biseged the world over.

    In Malawi we are geared up to the polls in May 2009 and trust me this story of food rising has been the centre of campaign for our former president Dr Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi is taking advantage of this situation and he is brainwashing the rural masses with his sketchy economics. He is using the cost of few food items to decaimpaign his predescessor as if it is Dr Bingu wa Muthalika who is making the cost of items to skyrocket in Malawi, not telling the rural population that the cost of food has risen all over the world and its not only Malawi that is in this predicament. One thing that Dr Bakili Muluzi is not telling his supporters is that oil and fuel drives the economy of the world plus other costs that make the economy to go up.

    The solution to this is not in African governments but I entirely blame the western countries and America for putting the world at a tight angle through their Iraq war policies and other policies that are in plcae to attain 2015 MDGs. And this in turn its not helping Africa and other third world countries to controll their resources in a sustainable way.

    The was a time here in Malawi when the IMF wrongly advised GOM (government of Malawi) about selling public companies as a way of alleviating our problems. This is proving to a setback to our economy as more people are being rendered jobless. Africa is not just ready for privatisation.

    Generally, I as a citizen of my country Malawi, I have to be worried with the food prices increasing because, it us the citizens and especially us, the poor who are being milked to the bones of our hard earned income. For example a labour in the streets of Malawi who recieves MWK4550.00 ($31.37) a month cannot even survive a whole month as a result people are on constant borrowing from those who can borrow. And this somebody cannot even save some income in banks. And he will be walking everyday on foot to and from work. And he cannot even afford a descent lunch.

    Our African leaders cannot bring this cost of living down because they don’t have the powers directly to the products as this is world problem that needs the people who have put Africa it this situation to find an urgent answer to it. Maybe Mr George W. Bush and Tony Blair will offer the world a better solution to the food price increase. Had they not waged a war with Iraq we could have been saying a different story altogether. FUEL drives the economy of the world and other costs, this is an undisputed fact and Bush knows this. Tell him to stop war in Iraq and the world again will have better prices for fuel.

    Chawezi, Malawi

  29. 29 steve
    April 9, 2008 at 17:46

    Uh oh, maybe we’ll resort to Soylent Green?

  30. 30 Muhammad via email
    April 9, 2008 at 17:48

    Hi WHYS!

    I hope you all are fine.

    Are we facing a new era of more expensive food?
    It is totally true as prices for food in Pakistan have gone much higher (almost more than 50%) in the past 3/4 years.

    Many people are now talking about a global food crisis – with no end in sight – do you agree?
    I don’t think that the crisis will go too deep in near future for the reason that food sector will ultimately get attraction of businessmen. We must not forget demand and supply rule.

    And who do you blame for this?
    I blame it to international leadership which is engaged in undefined war on terrorism and thus wasting precious resources on it. Through the use of destructive weapons not only cultivation land is affected but also the environment is going crazy.

    Muhammad, Pakistan

  31. 31 bjay
    April 9, 2008 at 17:49

    Are you worried about rising food prices?

    I am worried about any rising prices!
    Am I specially analytical about the Food prices?
    NO! Unless the ‘PRESS’ pressing this issue.

    YE! When I am not a ‘somnambulant’ state, I swim in the tide, that makes most man as one. (average)

    Bjay connotation with accent.

  32. April 9, 2008 at 17:58

    @ Justin from Iowa
    Justin, great points on the waste plant matter. I am just hoping that in the future electrical production, especially in regards to crop waste, is more de-centralized and efficient. Though I doubt that is likely to happen anytime soon.
    I completely agree with you on the point of needing plant matter to go back into the soil to reduce the need for additives which further pollute the environment.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  33. 33 Jason via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:10

    This is simple mathematics. Since the invention of agriculture some 6 odd millenia ago, mankind has has had to balance the food supply to maintain the population necessary to have a successful civilization. Capitalism is failing because of two things. Rich people overeat. Look at all the obese Americans. The second reason is that food is being turned into fuel for our toys. Not only are we eating too much over here in America but we are consuming food in our vehicles. History will judge ethanol is a great poison to society. America will be remembered as the people that caused a global food crisis so they could drive instead of walk or take a bus/mass transit.


  34. 34 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 18:11

    Elfael, thanks for responding to that point. I know in university we researched how cheap food imports/food aid hurt 3rd world agricultural economies (subsidized agricultural economies in USA and Europe) but that had been a few years ago and I was wondering if my memory served.

    Tangenting again, I don’t think anyone expects bio fuels are the fuels of the future. There simply isn’t enough material in the world to create biofuels from to totally replace petroleum. Not to mention bio-fuels consume huge amounts of ground water resources which is allready becoming a worry here in Iowa as ethanol plants aren’t being regulated in how much water they can use.

    Hydrogen, Electric, some other form will be the fuel of a future.

  35. 35 Adam via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:12

    We have a small family farm and raise a few head of cattle. When I was on the air live on World Have Your Say last year in Portland I complained of increasing hay prices then. Prices have not improved so we will be forced to raise the price our customers pay for our all natual beef.

    Adam, portland

  36. 36 Kalypso via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:13

    In Ethiopia people are already joking:
    everything in increasing, except the number of the Trinity.

    Kalypso, Vienna, Austria

  37. 37 Denise via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:14

    Part of the blame for the food crisis is the West’s need to have guilt free driving by using biofuels. Most of these fuels are made from food products and the cause of cutting down more forests to plant palm trees, etc. for use in fuels to run our cars.

    Denise, San Francisco

  38. 38 Denise via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:15

    The earth is not going to cure itself. We need to be the doctors and nurses that help the process.
    We made the earth in our destructive image, now we need to cure it.

    Denise, San Francisco

  39. 39 Rich via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:15

    Food is no different than other energy sources such as oil. As long as global population continues to grow at an explosive pace, I think that food prices will continue to climb.

    I think that basic food growing skills should be taught to children at school so that in the future we can grow a percentage of our own food, outside or inside

    Rich, Toronto, Canada

  40. 40 Mason via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:19

    I am feeling the weight of increasing food prices. The store says it is due to rising gas costs. So the consumer is feeling it at the pump and the store. George W Bush and his administration are soley responsible for the disastrous situation the world is in. They have spread aggression and violence, while the world struggles to get by, the President, the Vice President and their conies make millions from companies like Haliburton…the entire group of them need to be tried as War Criminals for the death and destruction and global crisis they have brought upon us.

    Mason, Utah

  41. 41 Korey via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:32

    We couldn’t see it coming because we were blinded with the Bush War


  42. 42 LouiseInPortland
    April 9, 2008 at 18:37

    We teach our children to share– do as you teach– be a vegetarian and leave more for the rest of the world’s children.

  43. 43 Eric Hold
    April 9, 2008 at 18:44

    Perhaps it is time all people around the world finally realize the benefit of veganism (or at a minimum, vegetarianism).

    Production of meat for the beginning to end is wasteful, , unhealthy, unnecessary, contributes largely to pollution and seems archaic to me.

    Buy your food locally (as much as possible). By supporting local farmers, you put money back into your own economy and it reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for fuel to transport including refrigeration.

    A vegan diet is not only healthy for human beings, it poses the least demand and therefore the least destruction of the planet.

    And this benefits everyone.

    Portland, Oregon

  44. April 9, 2008 at 18:44

    Food cost and availability will always fluctuate. The question you are asking is should those that have the means and ability to feed themselves feel obligated to help those that do not? Should cultural welfare programs be implemented to help those who can not afford the raising costs?

  45. 45 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 18:44

    I think that, as has been stated by others here, the growing population of the world is a major contributor to world food problems. The world population has grown over history, but tech advances in seed, fertilizer, production methods, etc have offset the growth of populations. At this point, tech advances and farming marginal new land have very little effect on increasing food production. Indeed bio-fuels have reduced overall world food production.

    So where, worldwide, we have almost always had a world food surplus (even though transportation and inequal wealth meant locally there were famines and shortages) now we are facing real world wide shortages, or emphasized local shortages because of wealth inequality.

    This is only going to get worse. Even if world wide bio-fuel production was reduced to zero, we would still face this very same problem in at most a few decades of population growth.

    I don’t know the answer, but we need to be sure we are identifying all of the problems not just 1 facet of the problem. (and population is just 1 more facet of this larger problem. Wealth inequality, the worlds dependence upon petroleum, and others are all facets of the problem)

  46. 46 Tom via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:45

    We can trace the rising prices of everything right back to the Cheney Secret Energy task force which took the advice of Ken Lay of Enron infamy. They deregulated Oil and then market speculators ran up Oil prices to historic levels just like Enron had done to US energy prices. Even the Saudis have blamed the speculators!

    Since oil is needed to plant, fertilise, grow, harvest, process, and transport food to markets, the prices have skyrocketed.

    There are more contributing factors but Oil addiction is the fundamental and largest factor.

    Tom D Ford, Oregon

  47. 47 Peter via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:46

    My carbon footprint is 3.28. Surely political leaders should practice what they preach by lowering their own carbon footprints? We the ordinary people have to suffer higher food prices while they continue to live “the good life!”

    Peter, UK

  48. 48 Blair via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:47

    Let the blood be on the Envirnmentalist / Scientist’s hands. This is their doing – their panic.

    Scientists cannot predict climate (it’s too complex): but any economic’s secondary student could have predicted the food price rises – it will be electricity next.

    EU CAP has starved Africa for years ( they cannot produce for themselves because of EU selfish policy) and now we hammer them with this biofuel panic.

    Blair, Stockholm, Sweden

  49. 49 Mason via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:48

    Since I live in the United States, when I say I am feeling the effects of rising food prices I become embarassed. It is true it is getting harder and harder, I dont have a lot left over to save at the end of the month, but I can still get food and I do not have the troubles that many in the rest of the world have. I am further embarrassed that, in my view the United States (primarily President George W. Bush and his administration) is primarily responsible for the global crisis (not just food, but in all aspects of politics and social justice). The world, primarily the Western World but the emerging economies as well, needs to adjust its thinking…we must get off oil (and biofuels are not the answer, put every cent we have into solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen), we must stop killing each other, we must focus our attentions on how we, as a species, are going to deal with the next 100 years or it is going to be a very difficult century.

    Mason, Utah

  50. 50 Maria via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:49

    Watch the US bring in their GM foods by the back door in the face of this world starvation.

    This is an engineered shortage with the US switching to bio fuel use of their grains, and then pushing for adopting and using their Monsanto GM seeds so the US ends up controlling the agricultural produce globally as farmers will no longer be able to reuse their own seed stocks. They will have to go to Monsanto and other US companies to buy the patented seeds for each crop.

    Already the press covers the push by the US companies, the spokespeople and the US government through WTO and their foreign policy, note that India has to allow GM seeds into their country in exchange for being welcomed into the nuclear club and no longer the bad nation left outside the US community of good guy nations.

    Now in the face of this shortage the GM moves in.
    It is and will be part of the US foreign policy just as Enron was in the past. This is more dangerous, and calls for sharp understanding of this danger.

    Maria, Stockholm, Sweden

  51. 51 Thomas via email
    April 9, 2008 at 18:56

    The increase in the prices of food in America is largely due to the fact that our food is processed. For example corn and other items used in processing or creating high fructose corn syrup are being used for fuel and raising the prices of our cereals that contain these sweeteners. I have been eating mostly organic food and some locally grown foods that are not processed and I have not noticed a large increase in my food prices, not to mention the fact that I feel healthier.

    Thomas, California

  52. April 9, 2008 at 18:56

    It was nice to hear your food expert represent the vegetarians! 🙂
    A much more sustainable and healthy life for everyone.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  53. 53 Biju via email
    April 9, 2008 at 19:01

    I’m following this discussion on food production worldwide, etc. Why has no one mentioned corruption, mismanagement, poor governance – not just in Africa but in quite sophisticated methods in the developed countries as well. Having lived in E. Africa for 16 years, I’m convinced that corruption is the root of all evil. The average African wants the same for themselves and loved ones as everyone else in the world. Leaders who take advantage of their position and live for themselves, cause the problems we are now having.


  54. April 9, 2008 at 19:04

    Hi World Have your Say

    I am an Egyptian Engineer living in the United States.
    The problem in Egypt is endemic, and common among developing nations which are ruled by dictatorial regimes which are corrupt, inept and incompetent in the most vile form one can imagine.

    Those regimes have one and only one goal; to stay on the thrones of power for life and to pass the baton to their offspring under the guise that if it happens in America then it should not be an exception in our countries.

    Egypt has the wherewithal to be self sufficient in food. Corruption, however, propel an agricultural policy which ensures perpetual food shortages for more than one reason:

    1) to keep the population too busy striving to secure daily bread and forget about politics.
    2) to ensure that all imports, of which, food constituting the largest share, provides for commissions and briberies for the fat cows sitting on the throne of power.

    If Egypt can democratically get rid of the filth sitting on the throne of power, it will regain its status as a food producing nation’ self sufficient and an exporter of surplus.

  55. 55 Tom via email
    April 9, 2008 at 19:05

    Yes, I am worried about rising food prices and for a number of reasons. There will be an increase of right wing governments using it as an excuse to buy more arms and crack down on the starving poor, who will either die from starvation or be murdered for demanding food. So Arms Merchants will benefit, right-wing extremists will grab their chance, and people like Bush/Cheney will use it as an excuse for their War of Terror against the world.

    We’re in for a rough ride.

    Tom, Oregon

  56. 56 Peter Gizzi UK
    April 9, 2008 at 19:08

    Have really enjoyed the programme today. In The UK we are told we should reduce our carbon footprint. I checked mine and it came out at 3.28. Our national average is 4.6. I get a bit fed up when a Portuguese non-elected president Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso tells us what to do but continues to live “the good life” himself.

    Isn’t it time polical leaders began to practice what they preach? In many poorer countries carbon footprints will be much lower, yet they are they ones who suffer to supply our cars with fuel!

    I do not have a car but manage very well. I am retired but have the benefit of a wartime upbringing that taught me econmic living.

    Crops should be grown to feed people. Cars should be made more expensive. As a country we might get off our rear ends and use our legs again.

  57. 57 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 19:10

    ANother aspect of American food prices is transportation cost. Goods are trucked back and forth and back again in their path of processing to what we eat, and every trip racks up extra cost due to fuel prices.

  58. 58 blair
    April 9, 2008 at 19:14

    I live in Sweden and five people I have talked to over the last year have said to me here – after a heated debate on the conseguences of global warming policies – that if the cost is that people starve/die (in LDCs) so be it. That is the cost to save the planet from global warming.

  59. 59 John via email
    April 9, 2008 at 19:21

    Among the contributing factors you listed, you left out the underlying way multinational corporations control production and distribution of food. If land and food were not the for-profit commodities we accept them to be, would food prices or the cost of luxuries be rising as a consequence of the factors you mentioned? Is there really a food crisis, or just a leveraged myth of scarcity?

    I don’t think anyone can predict whether there is a no end in sight to our situation. The solution is simple: equitable and sensible priorities. But the operative variable is whether we will ever see intelligent leadership on a global scale. Two models which come to mind are the democratically elected governments of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. In other words, fear and ignorance is the root of our problems.

    This does not leave me with much hope. For my generation’s future, at least.

    John Augustine, Wisconsin

  60. 60 Brian
    April 9, 2008 at 19:24

    Biofuels have been promoted because US grain prices have historically been very low, and surpluses have been the norm. As a United States farmer I have to deal with United States prices for land, fuel, fertilizer, equipment, etc, along with US regulations and taxes. In addition, I would like to have a standard of living on par with say a US teacher or policeman for example. Because I must live and work as well as grow food in the USA economy, the price I need to produce food will have to cover the expenses here in the USA, or I will go out of business. Around major and even minor US cities, farmland gets developed as malls and housing subdivisions because no farmer can pay the $30000 plus per acre to farm the land. The bottom line is, for me to stay in business as a farmer I probably have to receive more for my corn, wheat and soybeans than many in the world can pay. It really is a catch 22, the world needs US food production, but may not be able to afford it. Our most precious resource, good farmland, is not worth as much growing food as it is growing grass for golf greens or paved with concrete for a shopping center. Every year acre after acre of it is taken out of production of food forever.

    All through the 1980s our family farm struggled to produce food at a fraction of the cost of growing it, both my parents had other jobs. When I started farming in 1986, prices were depressed for both farm products and farmland, so you had at least a chance of making it because you could buy cheap farmland. With farmland values now about 5 times what they were when I bought my first farm in 1988, US farmers can’t go back to prices of the 1980s and make it. As I approach the age of 40, I am in the rather odd position that if I sold out and did nothing I would be much better off financially than if I continue farming, all this in a world situation where food prices have risen so quickly in such a short time, one would think farming would be a goldmine. Chances are, if I were to sell my farm, it would be bought by an investor who has much less concern about ethics and world hunger and much more about making a buck.

    With regard to animal agriculture being responsible for food shortages, that is a bit of an inaccuracy. On our Kansas farm nearly 1800 acres is in native grass. The soil is too thin, hilly and rocky to ever grow crops. The best use for it is to graze cattle. In the winter we do feed some grain, but mostly hay which is part of our rotation, a rotation essential for the health of our soil. There is a place for animal agriculture in a healthy farm system, and it is a vital place at that.

    The world has taken farmers and food forgranted for many years. Farmers have had practically no say in either the prices they receive for their products or what they pay for their inputs. Most have kept doing it because of a love they have for the land and what they do. The world needs a safety net of food surplus, yet as farmers we have been sorely penalized for any excess production in the form of low farmgate prices. This problem is not unfixable, but it will have to be dealt with and the fix won’t be quick or easy. The best way to cure the problem of food shortages is for realistic base prices to support production that will give a safety net of surplus food, eliminate that and the world will continue to live hand to mouth when it comes to food supply, and as always the poorest will suffer the most.

  61. 61 Justin from Iowa
    April 9, 2008 at 19:31

    Peter, could you provide a link to where you found your carbon footprint? I would like to see my own, actually, and what my carbon footprint means.

  62. 62 John Smith
    April 9, 2008 at 21:33

    As markets which were once unable to afford the high standards of living that the west enjoyed now enter the World of Consumerism, we realise that the laws of nature hold true. India and China together have about 1/3 of the world’s population. This means more people finally eating as the rest of us had all these years. The earth cannot cope (esp with all the other factors influencing world food availability.)

    In my undergraduate years, I did a course in ecology and we studied the pattern of wolves (or was it foxes) and hares in Europe. As food became plenty, the hare population increased. As hare populations increased, the wolf population increased. As wolf population increased, hare population decreased, which led to the wolf population decreasing. The key thing is that in times of plenty, animal populations tend to increase, but when this increase in predators puts a strain on the food supply, then nature has a way of reducing predator population. We are going to suffer, but out of this, the earth will find balance and human population just may start to shrink.

    Eat, drink and be merry cause the party is coming to an end. CHEERS.

  63. 63 Val
    April 9, 2008 at 22:07

    Concerning the World Have your Say program on April 9th 2008:

    In the nineteen sixties there were three billion people on earth. The major factor for resource and food shortages, which is seldom mentioned because it is considered politically incorrect to discuss but is a fact none the less, is the world’s present population of six billion plus. If even the unmet demand for family planning could have been met there would be a billion fewer people in the world today. The failure of political and religious leaders, past and present, to address the issue is the root cause of today’s situation. With the global population being projected to become anywhere between nine and twelve billion by 2050 the supply of food and other resources will have to increase from 50 to 100 percent. Talk about a sustainable society under those circunstances is highly unrealistic, to say the least.

    As an example of the situation: Consider acess to electrical energy, a vital factor in human well being. When there were five billion people in the world there were two billion without acess to electricity. The World energy Council stressed the necessity of meeting their needs. Now there are over six billion people on earth and yet there are still two billion without access to electricity. In other words our near quadrupling per century taxes the infrastructure faster than it can be expanded to meet our collective needs. A similar case holds for clean water supplies and many other resources.


  64. 64 Peter Gizzi UK
    April 10, 2008 at 01:57

    Hi Justin from Iowa. I’ve just been out for a few pints so have only just read your reply.

    I used Direct Gov-Act on CO2 Calculator. I think this may only apply to The UK as I have a feeling it is done by our government?

    If you Google “carbon Footprint” it brings up lots of sites that do similar.


    Having said that I would love to know how your footprint scores? Anyone else out there brave enough to share?

    Regards to you Justin and everyone else on here too. I may be old fashioned but this is a wonderful site.

    Peter Gizzi UK

  65. 65 John van Dokkumburg
    April 10, 2008 at 08:18

    I believe there is a disaster for the invirement allready , if haverst are small and only unnatural protecting and turbo growing methodes seems to work, we predone a mistake as the human population can only live in unnatural invirements like dooing business … the need for making more money …

    We need to have wild animals for a natural ballance but if the consumers need .. they fall away because the industry can live .. ? Listen liars , Industry makes the need , not me !!! Understand !! The natural foodchain is in danger because a natural need from us is gone and the natural protection is falling away . Only the vulture has nothing to fear, so who helping us – intergrate – into the inviriment and make a ballance for us ? .. If we want to make harmony we need to tune in … and stop the money thinking .

    April 10, 2008 at 11:36

    Good day everyone,
    This is an interesting topic to be discussed.This issue of prices of food and other commodities rising, is really disturbing my mind.To speak my mind,world leaders should do something about it.People with no regrads for others,can throw the whole cities into turmoil.This problem of the rising of food is seen in many parts of the world.Recently,in my country Cameroon,there was a serious strike action,that some people lost their lives,because prices of food and fuel increased.This situation is also in egypt now.The prices of goods have rised.The rich will have enough to eat.But let’s think of the poor.People stay in hiding when the wicked come to power.But when they fall from power,people will celebrate.It is foolish to follow our own opinions.Let’s learn from good people and we’ll be safe.World leaders shouldn’t sleep over this issue.Let them protect the right of the poor.
    Many thanks.See you tomorrow for another edition.
    I’m Fonjong Terence Tah from Cairo.

  67. 67 Justin from Iowa
    April 10, 2008 at 15:22

    Peter, I tried a few calculators while at work and got figures between 40 (That can’t be right) and 11 (I still hope that isn’t right). Going to try to track down a more detailed calculator when I get home… we recycle everythng we can, compost vegetable waste, always turn off lights and appliances when not in use… its depressing to think that effort spent only results in a carbon footprint down too 11…

  68. 68 Tita Lenz
    April 21, 2008 at 11:19

    please world body try and keep an eye on zimbabwe do let them go to war as predicted.

  69. 69 Tita Lenz
    April 21, 2008 at 13:45

    I am very happy with what the president George Walker Bush have done, by give out millions of dollars to help solve the problem of hugger in Africa.

  70. 70 Dennis Young, Jr.
    May 11, 2008 at 08:51

    The cost of my family food budget has been steady @ about $ 400.00
    [US Dollars a month] but i have to read the sales ads and use more
    coupons for the money to be stretched further!

    Madrid, United States of America

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