US drought could trigger repeat of global food crisis, experts warn

Monday, July 23, 2012
By Paul Martin

As the mid-west bakes and food prices soar, threats of a ripple effect in the Middle East could lead to more uprisings

Suzanne Goldenberg
GuardianUK
Monday 23 July 2012

America’s drought threatens a recurrence of the 2008 global food crisis, when soaring prices set off riots and unrest to parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, food experts warn.

Corn prices reached an all-time high on Friday, as the drought expanded across America, trading at $8.24 a bushel on the Chicago exchange. Soybeans were also trading at record levels.

The US department of agriculture meanwhile predicted there would be less corn coming onto global markets over the next year, because of a sharp drop in US exports.

America is the world’s largest producer of corn, dominating the market. Corn is also connected to many food items – as feed for dairy cows or for hogs and beef cattle, as a component in processed food – expanding the impact of those price rises.

That means the effects of the drought will travel far beyond the mid-western states baking under triple-digit temperatures, said Robert Thompson, a food security expert at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

“What happens to the US supply has an immense impact around the world. If the price of corn rises high enough, it also pulls up the price of wheat,” he said.

He went on: “I think we are in for a very serious situation worldwide.”

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