Global Food Prices in 2011 Face Perilous Rise

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
By Paul Martin

December 28,2010

Food prices globally are rising to dangerous levels. There is talk of a coming crisis, like the ones that produced riots around the world in 2008 and 1974. Many of the ingredients of a disaster are present, but governments can stop the problem before it causes too much damage.

A warning sign is the price of traded staples like wheat, corn and rice. Prices shot up in 2010, soaring 26 percent from June to November and brushing the peaks of 2008, according to the Food Price Index kept by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That hits poor countries that import much of their food, including the Philippines, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

High prices deprive the poor, who already spend as much as half of their income on food. The market still clears, but at a riot-inducing high price. In India, where the cost of onions has in the past led to the upending of governments, prices of the good have again skyrocketed.

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