Food Riots Return as Global Food Prices Reach Record High

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This week the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that global food prices had reached record highs last month, surpassing  those of 2007 and 2008. Yesterday, The Financial Times reported that in Algeria increasing demonstrations about the lack of jobs, housing shortages, and the cost of food over the past few weeks have exploded into riots. Local news outlets have reported hundreds of rioters in the capital and beyond.  In the north-western city of Oran, rioters broke into a food warehouse and stole sacks of flour.

These riots follow the similar riots in Tunisia last month. One young man set himself on fire after he was prevented by police from selling fruits and vegetables.  The Middle East and North Africa are the two largest importers of cereal and countries in the area have been hit especially hard by the harvest shortages in Russia and the Ukraine this year.

In India, The Financial Times also reported yesterday, food prices have hit their highest point in more than a year. Food prices are by at least 18 percent from last year in a country where millions are spending more than 50 percent of their total income on food.

Surging global food prices are just one of the many challenges that people face throughout the Middle East, Africa, and around the world. Climate change, growing population, and water sources are also affecting the overall food production and availability. And as many countries grow increasingly dependent on food imports, they grow more vulnerable to natural disasters and market fluctuations taking place half-way around the world from them.

Innovations in sustainable agriculture—such as the cultivation of indigenous crops, affordable irrigation techniques that conserve water resources, and improved storage to reduce food waste—can go a long way to improve local food security worldwide. The forthcoming State of the World 2011 features innovations like these that are already working on the ground throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in order to help the global food community direct resources to solutions that reflect the complexity and interconnectedness of the current agricultural system.

 

To read more about food prices and producing food in the face of conflict, see: Beyond the Price of Food: Putting Food Security Into Farmers’ Hands, Where Cultivation Meets Conflict: Farming in Sudan’s War-Torn Darfur Region,Where Cultivation Meets Conflict: Farming in the Niger Delta, and Where Cultivation Meets Conflict: Rebuilding Liberian Farms in the Aftermath of War.

Molly Theobald
Molly Theobald is a Research Fellow with the Worldwatch Institute working with the Food & Agriculture team on State of the World 2011: Nourishing the Planet. Molly brings her skills as former Labor 2008 Pennsylvania State Communications Director for the National AFL-CIO, and her experience working on women's issues, to her research and writing for Worldwatch where she focuses on sustainable agriculture as a means to alleviate hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. She has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Women's Studies and Social Justice.
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