Sunday, March 6, 2011


When an elephant sneezes it cannot go unnoticed. Similarly developments is China have some bearings on the global scene. The dire prediction of an impending drought in that country seems to be sending alarms amongst other countries fearing of an impending disaster in the food front. Already food prices have soared beyond the 2008 levels and there are predictions that if food inflation is not checked it may lead to violence and even regime changes in at least 2 dozen countries. The fear that Chinese with their high buying power would sweep the world food grain market for getting hold of the food at any cost, leaving resource starved countries in the lurch. If FAO's estimates prove to be correct, there is no escape from a food crunch during the current year for which many countries are ill prepared to face.

"The state-run media in China warned this week that the country's major agricultural regions were facing their worst drought in 60 years. On Tuesday, the state news agency Xinhua said that Shandong province, a cornerstone of Chinese grain production, was bracing for its worst drought in 200 years unless substantial precipitation came by the end of this month. World wheat prices are already surging and have been widely cited as one reason for protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. A separate UN report last week said global food export prices had reached record levels in January. The impact of China's drought on global food prices and supplies could create serious problems for less-affluent countries that rely on imported food. With $2.85 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China has ample buying power to prevent any serious food shortages. ''They can buy whatever they need to buy, and they can outbid anyone,'' Mr Zeigler said. China's self-sufficiency in grain prevented world food prices from moving even higher when they spiked three years ago, he said. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Tuesday that 5.2 million hectares of China's 14.2 million hectares of wheat fields had been affected by the drought. It said that 2.6 million people and 2.8 million head of livestock faced shortages of drinking water".

Except stating the case no one seems to have an answer as to how best the anticipated contingency can be met. Probably there is a need for the rich countries to come forward and help the poorest of the poor countries through liberal special assistance through food aid and other inputs for a limited period. In the long term the idea of setting up regional food grain banks must be pursued rigorously for meeting such future contingencies.


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