The World Food Crisis. Fred Magdoff [email protected] 1.) There is a catastrophic food crisis. 2.) In addition to “routine” hunger. 3.) It is interacting with a longer term underlying food crisis and making it worse. A Broad Overview. Total world population = 6 billion people.
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The World Food Crisis
1.) There is a catastrophic food crisis.
2.) In addition to “routine” hunger.
3.) It is interacting with a longer term underlying food crisis and making it worse.
A Broad Overview
Total world population = 6 billion people
In cities = 3 billion people
In rural areas = 3 billion people
The Wretched of the Earth
Hunger amid plenty in the U.S.
Hunger frequently occurs amid plenty in poor countries too
Poor in India Starve as Surplus Wheat Rots(New York Times, 12/12/02)
Want Amid Plenty, An Indian Paradox: Bumper Harvests and Rising Hunger
(Wall St. Journal, 6/25/04)
There is enough food produced world wide—and usually within most countries—to feed everyone.
Why are people hungry?
Because they are poor (working or not) and living in an economic system that
a) needs, creates, and maintains an underclass, and that
b) does not admit a “right” to basic necessities such as food.
The availability of food to people reflects very unequal economic and political power relationships within and between countries.
Percent of total national income (2001)
Household distribution of net worth in the United States (2001)
Percent of families
Percent of net worth
The Current Crisis
Bangladeshi demonstrators protest over high food prices and low wages
Haiti’s President Tries to Halt Crisis Over Food
April 10, 2008
The police in Haiti struggled Wednesday to control looting and rioting over high food prices…
Food Inflation, Riots Spark Worries for World Leaders
— Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2008
Rioting in response to soaring food prices recently has broken out in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia. In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to deter food theft from fields and warehouses. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned in a recent speech that 33 countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices. Those could include Indonesia, Yemen, Ghana, Uzbekistan and the Philippines. In countries where buying food requires half to three-quarters of a poor person's income, "there is no margin for survival," he said.
The price of rice, the core of the Bangladeshi diet, has jumped by more than 30 percent since then — a major problem in a country where nearly half the population survives on less than $1 a day.
An adviser to the country's Ministry of Food, A.M.M. Shawkat Ali, warned of a 'hidden hunger' in Bangladesh and economists estimate 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go hungry — a crisis that could become a serious political problem for the military-backed government.
"Inflation of staples is really out of control. We've never seen this before…If we don't react now, this summer will be full of danger.”
—WFP representative Gian Carlo Cirri
The world's poor ``are living very close to the edge as it is…If they are pushed further, they are typically the first who will spark unrest.'’
— Robert Zeigler, director-general of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
Rising prices threaten millions with starvation, despite bumper crops
The Independent (UK)
Sunday, 2 March 2008
There has never been anything remotely like the food crisis that is now increasingly gripping the world, threatening millions with starvation. For it is happening at a time of bumper crops.
Effects in U.S. are less than in poor countries
Ingredients are small part of price of highly processed foods.
In U.S. people have higher incomes and spend less a % of their income on food.
Causes of Current Crisis
But it’s not just ethanol: also problems with biodiesel primarily from soybeans and oil palm
Eliminating import duties
Freezing exports of foods
More food subsidies
Bush Orders $200 Million in Food Aid
By Associated Press
4:31 PM EDT, April 14, 2008
(A congressional analysis shows the Iraq war costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week.)
The long-term crisis
The long-term crisis
Decreased support to small farmers
Lowered food production by small farmers
Increased migration to city slums
Increased larger farms
If 20 million farms can produce all world food needs — regardlessofwherethefarmsarelocated — what will be the fate of billions of people that will not find other employment?
How can poor nations keep the large mass of people in rural areas productively employed in agriculture?
One of the great moral, economic, and political issues of the 21st century.
Monthly Review, May 2008