Food prices to skyrocket, riots could follow, suggests USDA
by: Jonathan Benson
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
When the upswing in commodity prices eventually makes its way throughout the food system in mid-to-late 2011, food prices are sure to spike with levels potentially reaching those of 2008, announced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) economist Ephraim Leibtag at the agency’s annual Outlook Forum. And if conditions escalate rapidly, there is also the potential for food riots and other civil unrest.
The USDA is predicting a 3.5 percent increase in food prices in 2011, which is about twice the overall inflation rate but less than the 2008 increase, according to a recent Reuters report. In 2008, food prices rose 5.5 percent, which represents the highest increase since 1990. But the possibility of food prices dramatically rising in 2011 like they did in 2008 is a definite possibility.
“Given that it’s still earlier in the year, I’m prone to be conservative on the side of the forecast,” said Leibtag. “It’s a possibility,” he added, concerning the likelihood of massive inflation in food costs like was seen in 2008.
Leibtag also explained the agency’s expectation of a four percent rise in costs for meats, poultry, and fish; a 3.5 percent increase for fruits and vegetables; a four percent increase for cereals and bakery products; and a three percent increase in sugar and sweets costs. All increases represent anywhere from a 20 to 60 percent increase over last year’s increases.