Children in Madagascar. Seventy percent of Malagasy people suffer from malnutrition. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Last year saw the highest average food prices since recording began in 1990, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index. The Food Price Index’s average for the year was 228 points, 28 points higher than the past record set in 2008.
“International prices of many food commodities have declined in recent months, but given the uncertainties over the global economy, currency and energy markets, unpredictable prospects lie ahead,” said FAO Senior Grains Economist Abdolreza Abbassian.
February 2011 saw the highest food prices yet recorded hitting 236 points.
Fortunately by the end of the year prices of cereals, sugar, and oils had dropped due to a good harvest, less demand, and a stronger U.S. dollar.
Given the complexity of world markets and agriculture, experts have pointed to a number of reasons behind current food prices including higher consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs; the commodity boom; fresh water scarcity; soil erosion; competition over land with biofuels; growing human population; and climate change linked to extreme weather events that have devastated some crops.
Currently, the UN estimates that one billion people in the world are going hungry, nearly 14 percent of the world’s population.
(12/19/2011) Drought and erratic rains could lead to further food scarcities in Africa warns the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The WFP singles out South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and Niger as nations of particular concern. Earlier this year famine killed scores of people, including an estimated 30,000 children, in Somalia.
(12/06/2011) The world can simultaneously improve food security and save tropical forests by better optimizing land use, factoring in the true costs of biofuels, boosting yields on existing farmland, encouraging production away from forest frontiers, and supporting efforts to develop more sustainable community roundtables, concludes a new report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation.
(10/31/2011) Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Halloween this year is not the ghouls and goblins taking to the streets, but a baby born somewhere in the world. It’s not the baby’s or the parent’s fault, of course, but this child will become a part of an artificial, but still important, milestone: according to the UN, the Earth’s seventh billionth person will be born today. That’s seven billion people who require, in the very least, freshwater, food, shelter, medicine, and education. In some parts of the world, they will also have a car, an iPod, a suburban house and yard, pets, computers, a lawn-mower, a microwave, and perhaps a swimming pool. Though rarely addressed directly in policy (and more often than not avoided in polite conversations), the issue of overpopulation is central to environmentally sustainability and human welfare.