Food Prices



Food Prices
Food Prices
Food security involves making sure everyone has
access to food, both on a global and local level.
“Food insecurity exists when people do
Sometimes access to food is a question of
not have adequate physical, social or
affordability and not availability. Economic
economic access to food as defined [in
situations can strongly influence the availability
food security]”.
and affordability of food. A country that is not selfreliant has to import goods in order to sustain its
- Food & Agriculture Organization
population. Trade policies and agreements can
facilitate the movement of products between
countries, but high taxes, unreasonable exchange rates, and transportation costs make it
increasingly difficult for local citizens to purchase the food they need.
Fuel Costs and Poverty
With fuel prices so high, the cost of basic food supplies has more than doubled in the last year. This
means that in order to keep up with rising food prices, a person’s income also must double. For
most countries, particularly in the underdeveloped world, this is not the case. Oftentimes what
happens is that people have barely made enough money to survive. Fuel costs have made it so that
many people in a situation of absolute desperation.
In November 2007 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO warned that a natural disaster or
global crisis could severely impact global food prices and further worsen conditions for the world’s
poor.i Six months later, FAO Director-General Diouf pointed to bad policies, including those
regarding biofuels, as contributors to the food crisis.ii Now the global financial crisis is further
affecting food prices. In addition, it is impacting donations previously promised by developed
countries. This reduction in aid and relief funds has exacerbated the food insecurity caused by
rising prices.
The instability of the global food supply has contributed to much social unrest in the past year,
especially in developing countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Most of the riots have occurred
in urban areas, where the rising price of food and fuel has had the greatest impact.iii The rising food
Self-Reliant: independent; not needing outside help
Import: to bring products from one country to another for sale
Underdeveloped: not economically advanced
Biofuel: fuel made from agriculture products such as soy or corn
prices in 2010-2011 have contributed to the unrest in the Middle East, although they are not the
primary cause. iv Similarly, food price inflation in 2008 caused riots in a number of different
countries, such as Haiti and Bangladesh.v Developing4 countries are the most strongly impacted
by food instability; however vulnerable populations exist among all countries.
On February 11th, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak resigned from his presidency as the result
of numerous riots and protests demanding his resignation.
The demonstrators, mainly young Egyptians, but including a variety of different
backgrounds, decided that they had enough of Mubarak’s 30 year reign as president, and
were ready for a new leader. There were many factors that prompted this unrest;
dissatisfaction with Mubarak’s repressive regime, anger over corruption within the
government, lack of available employment, and rising prices in all sectors including the food
industry, were some of the main concerns.
About 40% of Egyptians live on less than two-dollars a day which makes the rising food prices
a particular challenge. The prices also affect Egypt's economy since it one of the world’s
biggest importers of wheat. Egyptians also spend an extraordinarily large proportion of their
money on food compared with other countries.
This is not the first time that high food prices have contributed to unrest in Egypt. In 1977
there were riots when the government cut food subsidies of basic commodities, and in 2008
protests occurred when prices hit record highs.
Although it is not entirely clear if it was a coincidence or not, the World Bank reported record
highs in food prices around the same time that protests broke out in both Egypt and Tunisia.
The rise in prices is hitting these developing countries the hardest since the people depend on
raw food commodities (which have the greatest increases in price) and spend a larger
percentage of their income on food.
The lack of availability, access, and stability of food supply food security is causing unrest and
negatively impacting food security in Egypt, but also the Middle East, and the globe as a
Developing: becoming more economically and socially advanced
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the
International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), have come together to form the Twin
Track Approach in the fight against hunger. The Twin Track Approach addresses food security on
both a short-term and long-term basis. It is important to alleviate the effect of high food prices on
the poorest populations while continuing to implement long-term policies and programs which
promote agricultural development, employment, food production and Both the long-term
and short-term goals will hopefully help attain the goals set up by another important international
conference called the World Food Summit.
Another well-known conference, known as The DOHA Rounds, first began in 2001 in Doha, Qatar,
as part of the World Trade Organization Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference . The goal of the
Rounds was to improve the world economy while stimulating growth in developing countries via
trade. The Rounds focused on six major areas, one of them being agriculture.vii The first negotiation
on agriculture occurred in 2000, one year before the first DOHA round. By 2001, when the DOHA
Rounds began, 121 different governments had already submitted numerous negotiating proposals.viii
The DOHA Rounds continued in Cancun in 2003, Geneva in 2004, Hong Kong in 2005, and Geneva
in 2006 & 2008. The talks paused in 2008 when there was a disagreement over agricultural imports,
but according to Peter Sutherland, the former WTO director general, the goal is to complete the
DOHA Rounds negotiations by the December of 2011.ix
Citations and Photo Credits
Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite, The Guardian: 2007
Years of poor decisions created food crisis: FAO, Reuters: 2008
Food & Agriculture Organization. “High Level Conference on World Food Security, the Challenges of Climate
Change and Bioenergy: Soaring Food Prices.” 3-5 June 2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
BBC News. “Food prices at dangerous levels said World Bank.” BBC News Business. 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Feb.
2011. < >.
Ministerial Conference: the main decision making branch of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
CNN World. “Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket.” CNN World News. 14 April 2008. Web. 5 March
2011. <>.
Food & Agriculture Organization. “High Level Conference on World Food Security, the Challenges of Climate
Change and Bioenergy: Soaring Food Prices.” 3-5 June 2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
Executive Office of the President of the United States. “WTO Doha Negotiations.” Office of the United States Trade
Representative. Web. 5 March 2011. <>.
World Trade Organization. “Doha Development Agenda: Negotiations, Implementations, and Development.” WTO.
Web. 1
March 2011. <>.
BBC News. “Davos 2011: Doha Round ‘should finish by end of year’.” BBC News Business. 28 Jan. 2011. Web. 6 March
2011. <>.

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