Further to this earlier post
"This is the new face of hunger," Sheeran , the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).said. "There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before. There are food riots in countries where we have not seen them before."
The United Nations warned yesterday that it no longer has enough money to keep global malnutrition at bay this year in the face of a dramatic upward surge in world commodity prices . the WFP feeds 73 million people in 78 countries, less than a 10th of the total number of the world's undernourished. But with annual food price increases around the world of up to 40% and dramatic hikes in fuel costs, its budget is no longer enough even to maintain current food deliveries. The shortfall is all the more worrying as it comes at a time when populations, many in urban areas, who had thought themselves secure in their food supply are now unable to afford basic foodstuffs. Afghanistan has recently added an extra 2.5 million people to the number it says are at risk of malnutrition.
The increases in the global price of basic foods is being caused by a "perfect storm" of factors: a rise in demand for animal feed from increasingly prosperous populations in India and China, the use of more land and agricultural produce for biofuels, and climate change.
Much of the blame has been put on the transfer of land and grains to the production of biofuel. But its impact has been outweighed by the sharp growth in demand from a new middle class in China and India for meat and other foods, which were previously viewed as luxuries.
"The fundamental cause is high income growth," said Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. "I estimate this is half the story. The biofuels is another 30%. Then there are weather-induced erratic changes which caused irritation in world food markets. These things have eaten into world levels of grain storage.The lower the reserves, the more nervous the markets become, and the increased volatility is particularly detrimental to the poor who have small assets."
The impact of climate change will amplify that already dangerous volatility. Record flooding in west Africa, a prolonged drought in Australia and unusually severe snowstorms in China have all had an impact on food production.
"The climate change factor is so far small but it is bound to get bigger," Von Braun said. "That is the long-term worry and the markets are trying to internalise it."
A growing taste for meat and dairy in newly prosperous parts of the world is one important factor. When it takes 10 kilos of feed to make one of beef, farming animals swallows land that might otherwise be feeding people. But the new middle classes of Beijing and Shanghai will not easily be persuaded that eating meat is a bad idea, especially if the persuasion comes from western countries that are far from vegan. Meanwhile, subsidies to biofuels, particularly in the US, are distorting global farming. The 60m tonnes of American maize being burned each year represents more than twice the UK's entire cereal crop. The world wants cheaper food, and it wants more food - without the environmental consequences. The overriding priority must be ensuring that the hungry are not made even hungrier - but with the capitalist system it will be the drive for profits that takes priority .
The impact has been felt around the world. Food riots have broken out in Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing for the first time in two decades. Russia has frozen the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil for six months. Thailand is also planning a freeze on food staples. After protests around Indonesia, Jakarta has increased public food subsidies. India has banned the export of rice except the high-quality basmati variety.
"For us, the main concern is for the poorest countries and the net food buyers," said Frederic Mousseau, a humanitarian policy adviser at Oxfam. "For the poorest populations, 50%-80% of income goes on food purchases. We are concerned now about an immediate increase in malnutrition in these countries, and the landless, the farmworkers there, all those who are living on the edge."
1 United States The last time America's grain silos were so empty was in the early seventies, when the Soviet Union bought much of the harvest. Washington is telling the World Food Programme it is facing a 40% increase in food commodity prices compared with last year, and higher fuel bills to transport it, so the US, the biggest single food aid contributor, will radically cut the amount it gives away.
2 Morocco 34 people jailed this month for taking part in riots over food prices.
3 Egypt The world's largest importer of wheat has been hard hit by the global price rises, and most of the increase will be absorbed in increased subsidies. The government has also had to relax the rules on who is eligible for food aid, adding an extra 10.5 million people.
4 Eritrea It could be one of the states hardest hit in Africa because of its reliance on imports. The price rises will hit urban populations not previously thought vulnerable to a lack of food.
5 Zimbabwe With annual inflation of 100,000% and unemployment at 80%, price increases on staples can only worsen the severe food shortages.
6 Yemen Prices of bread and other staples have nearly doubled in the past four months, sparking riots in which at least a dozen people were killed.
7 Russia The government struck a deal with producers last year to freeze the price of milk, eggs, vegetable oil, bread and kefir (a fermented milk drink). The freeze was due to last until the end of January but was extended for another three months.
8 Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has asked the WFP to feed an extra 2.5 million people, who are now in danger of malnutrition as a result of a harsh winter and the effect of high world prices in a country that is heavily dependent on imports.
9 Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf announced this month that Pakistan would be going back to ration cards for the first time since the 1980s, after the sharp increase in the price of staples. These will help the poor (nearly half the population) buy subsidised flour, wheat, sugar, pulses and cooking fat from state-owned outlets.
10 India The government will spend 250bn rupees on food security. India is the world's second biggest wheat producer but bought 5.5m tonnes in 2006, and 1.8m tonnes last year, driving up world prices. It has banned the export of all forms of rice other than luxury basmati.
11 China Unusually severe blizzards have dramatically cut agricultural production and sent prices for food staples soaring. The overall food inflation rate is 18.2%. The cost of pork has increased by more than half. The cost of food was rising fast even before the bad weather moved in, as an increasingly prosperous population began to demand as staples agricultural products previously seen as luxuries. The government has increased taxes and imposed quotas on food exports, while removing duties on food imports.
12 Thailand The government is planning to freeze prices of rice, cooking oil and noodles.
13 Malaysia and the Philippines Malaysia is planning strategic stockpiles of the country's staples. Meanwhile the Philippines has made an unusual plea to Vietnam to guarantee its rice supplies. Imports were previously left to the global market.
14 Indonesia Food price rises have triggered protests and the government has had to increase its food subsidies by over a third to contain public anger.
A paper by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) commented, "Some nutrition studies show that the number of food-insecure people in the world would rise by more than 16 million for every percentage increase in the real prices of staple foods, meaning that 1.2 billion people could be chronically hungry by 2025; 600 million more than previously predicted."