As I said back in March, riots over food prices have begun. In fact, this month in Haiti, the prime minister was ousted over food-related rioting and death.
A recent NYTimes Editorial describes the current situation. Although the rise in food prices are partly a result of “uncontrollable forces — including rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India”, rich nations are making the problem worse by increasing biofuel production:
The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years. This elevated corn prices. Feed prices rose. So did prices of other crops — mainly soybeans — as farmers switched their fields to corn, according to the Agriculture Department.
Rice is a staple for half the world. Rice prices have almost doubled this year, mostly due to countries like India and Vietnam banning the export of certain types of rice. India has tried to control domestic costs by raising the export prices of non-basmati rice. In Thailand, there are reports that about 200,000 tons of rice (worth over $100 million) have gone missing from national warehouses. Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour.
In a world where there are millions of people who are wealthy, smart, and creative, we shouldn’t be rioting over food.