Monday, August 30, 2010


Amidst plenty of foods available in the market, Africa remains an island of poverty and hunger because most of the population there cannot access these foods due to abject poverty and insignificant income levels that could buy the much needed food for survival. Same applies on a relatively smaller scale to some segments of population in Asian and South American continents. Due to paucity of "accessible food", these unfortunate fellow denizens are going to be destined for a "sub-human" way of life, despicable to the conscience of the entire world. Here is a critique on the consequences of such a paradox on the future of the world.

'Scientists, like everyone else on this planet, need to differentiate the theoretical from the economical and the practical. If, as a result of grain embargoes by Russia and (possibly) Ukraine, the price of bread doubles this year, the impact on the world's urban poor — many of whom are living on less than $1.25 a day — will be devastating. And it matters not whether wheat reserves are rotting in India or whether Russia and Ukraine have surplus wheat. And it doesn't matter how many bread crumbs we discard. The dictates of the marketplace can be brutal. There is plenty of money in the world, far more than is needed to eliminate severe poverty, but severe poverty persists. In a global economy, where people's ability to feed themselves depends on the cost of rice or bread, hunger can exist on a wide scale, even if there is plenty of food–in theory–to go around.Don't believe that? Take a look at what's happening today in the African Sahel. Last month, Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program (WFP),warned that, as a consequence of widespread hunger, Niger was in danger of "losing a generation." She said that the development of children under the age of five in Niger will be severely impaired unless food relief arrives soon. WFP plans to reach 4.5 million people in the region in the next few months, but Sheeran warned that the situation is deteriorating rapidly and that WFP needs about $100 million to bridge the funding gap".

"The current rise in prices stems largely from the prospects of a lower than expected wheat harvest in Russia, the consequence of high temperatures and drought. The reduced demand attracts speculators who further push up the prices. Supply is further reduced when nations implement export bans. In response to an imminent poor harvest, today Russia imposed a ban on exporting grains. By shutting the door on exports, nations hope to keep the food in country to feed their citizens. This was a strategy adopted by several countries during the 2008 food crisis, which placed further upward pressure on prices. By disallowing exports, the global grain supply suddenly gets a lot smaller with no concomitant change in demand, and prices rise. When Russia decided to ban grain exports prices reacted predictably: they soared to their highest levels in two years" reaching "the highest level since August 29, 2008″. August 2008 is notable because it marks the height of the 2008 global food crisis, the food price index for cereals reached a whopping 238 (compared to 167 in August 2007, and 85 in 2000). Russia did not just ban exports on wheat; corn, barley, rye and flour were also banned from export, with predictable impacts on corn and other grains: Today corn futures shot to a 13 month high. It is likely that fertilizer will also increase in price as declining yields drive increased fertilizer application".

It is a reflection on the moral weakness of rich nations which after solemnly promising billion of dollars of food aid, reneged on it, probably obsessed with protecting and preserving the super quality of life their citizens are enjoying currently. Forgetting that no country can live in isolation, however powerful or rich it may be, when there is no peace and tranquility in the world, can be perilous to the future of this planet. It is ironical that many Western nations view Africa as a continent of opportunity for selling their GM technologies and other agricultural inputs as a part of a business strategy and rarely see the aid seekers as stable future partners in achieving harmony and prosperity for every denizen on this earth.


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