Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hunger, the cure for mass obesity (how's that for optimism?)

David Seaton's News Links
A Spanish friend of mine says that I have too gloomy a view of world affairs, "catastrofista" he calls me.

My friend is a sardonic, lapsed Catholic and not likely the type to be joyously awaiting "rapture", you know, the kind of person who sees every horror in the newspapers as a sign that Jesus is in the starting gate, champing at the bit, raring for the Last Trump. People like that get a lot of fun reading the papers and watching TV news nowadays

I've selected an article from the sober, Financial Times on a global food shortage. It seems that according to the UN, 854m people around the world haven't got enough to eat (of course in the United States poor people die of obesity related diabetes, but that's another story) also we are looking at several wars, any one of which could bring on a recession or a hecatomb and to top it off, at this moment, the next President of the United States is either going to be Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton.

I really wonder what my optimistic, Spanish friend is smoking. I wish he would pass me some.

Rising prices may herald the first global food shortage since the 1970s - Financial Times
Abstract: When the United Nations held its annual World Food Day last week to publicise the plight of the 854m malnourished people around the world, its warning that there “are still too many hungry people” was a little more anxious than usual. Finding food to feed the hungry is becoming an increasingly difficult task as growing demand for staples such as wheat, corn and rice brings higher prices. That is leading all nations – rich and poor – to compete for food supplies. Food security is not a new concern for countries that have battled political instability, droughts or wars. But for the first time since the early 1970s, when there were global food shortages, it is starting to concern more stable nations as well.(...) countries are starting to question whether they can afford to keep feeding themselves. Wheat and milk prices have surged to all-time highs while those for corn and soya­beans stand at well above their 1990s averages. (...) “The world is gradually losing the buffer that it used to have to protect against big swings [in the market],” says Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary of the grains trading group at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. “There is a sense of panic.”(...) (...) The difficulties are compounded because the importance of food in overall consumer spending is negatively correlated with income levels . For example, food is more than 60 per cent of the “consumption basket” measured by economists in sub-Saharan Africa, whereas it is 30 per cent in China and only 10 per cent in the US, according to the IMF.(...) Grain exporting countries have consequently started restricting the amount of grain they export, postponing sales or imposing in some cases prohibitive export tariffs to keep their local market well supplied, avoiding politically damaging food price increases. (...) The European Union has suspended its “set-aside” rules that bar farmers from planting cereals on 10 per cent of their land. The rules were designed to avoid over­production but Brussels is now worried that there will not be enough cereals to meet demand. (...) In the near future, demand for agricultural raw materials is likely to continue rising in world markets as countries that have previously been able to meet their own food needs start importing more, increasing the global challenge of feeding populations. Don Mitchell, an economist at the World Bank, says: “Although China and India are relatively self-sufficient in food, some economists doubt that this can continue as incomes rise and [think] that they will need to rely much more on imports.” The FAO expects India to import more wheat and China to increase imports of coarse grains to supply feed to its livestock industry. Both countries are also expected to increase imports of oils that are used in food production, such as palm oil. The World Bank estimates that cereal production will have to rise by nearly 50 per cent and meat output by 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030 to meet projected global demand. READ IT ALL

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