Nearly one billion people are too poor to feed themselves today, says Oxfam. Food prices have been steadily rising worldwide since 2008. Rising food prices mean: people. can’t. eat. They threaten the productivity of a nation’s people, they burden government and non-governmental institutions, most of all they limit peoples’ agency and ability. Here are some short case studies from Oxfam explaining the current food situations and the future risks that some countries are facing.
In the Sahel, cereal production is down 26% from last year. Reserves are dangerously low already. Food prices are up to 30-60% higher than the five year average (even 90% in northern Mali). Most people (60%) buy food in the marketplace and spend up to 80% of their money on food. So in a region that is in a long-term food crisis, any global hike could be terrible.
Bolivia: High and volatile global food prices are likely to have a significant impact. Bolivians have been consuming more imported meat, sugar and oil. At the same time, a million hectares of the best arable land (i.e. a third of the country’s total) is now used for export-driven agro-industrial production, the most productive soil generally going to the highest bidder and not to ensure local food security.
In Brazil, data from National Secretariat on Civil Defense shows that 1,123 cities are facing a state of emergency – 8.3 million people from nine states on the Semi Arid region – due to the worst drought in the past 30 years. The NGO Articulação do Semiárido (ASA) estimates that the drought may last till 2013. Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento (Conab, National Supply Company) estimates that the 2012 grain production will be smaller.
In 2007 Mexico suffered a tortilla crisis which saw the price of the flat corn bread, the main source of calories for many poor Mexicans, rise by up to 400 per cent sparking riots across the country. Now Mexico is facing double disaster: The country is in the grip of a severe drought that has affected 40 per cent of the county – further increasing its dependency on food.