Rocketing food prices spark fear of more global chaos

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, November 1, 2010
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My mother-in-law loves to talk. She will spend hours on the telephone informing me about every last detail of her day's activities, no matter how unimportant or trivial. My ears pricked up however when her latest whinge was about the rising price of her weekly shopping bill. "Tomatoes, bread, sugar and meat have all doubled in price in the last few weeks," she exclaimed dramatically. With this year's extreme and hostile weather, which destroyed the harvests in Russia and Pakistan, the cost of vegetables and other staple foods have reached a two-year high in many places – with rice and sugar reaching a record high. This stark increase in the cost of food is not only ruffling the feathers of my mother-in-law and her supermarket cronies, but also many food experts who are predicting that the increasing prices could ignite further political turmoil.

According to the Reuters-Jefferies commodity price indicator, not only has the price of meat recently reached a 20-year high, but the cost of wheat and maize throughout the globe has jumped a whopping 30 percent. Garlic in China, bread in Pakistan and tomatoes in Egypt are also at record highs, as the devastating affects of this year's unpredictable weather pulsates across the globe.

My mother-in-law's gripes about the cost of food being "worse than in 2008", may not be as exaggerated as I first perceived, as many analysts are making similar assertions . According to Abdolreza Abbassian, of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,

"The situation has deteriorated since September. In the last few weeks there have been signs we are heading the same way as in 2008. We may not get to the prices of 2008, but this time they could stay high for longer."

Already we are witnessing similarities to two years ago when the world was plunged deep into recession and no nation was spared. This depressing reality of soaring food prices amidst plummeting employment rates provoked political turmoil, including riots in 28 countries. Just last month, there were food riots in Mozambique that led to the death of 12 people, a bleak warning of the conflict and devastation the rising price of food can cause.

"The food riots in Mozambique can be repeated anywhere in the coming years," warned Devinder Sharma, a leading Indian food analyst. But what is particularly scandalous is that supermarkets are taking advantage of the situation. According to reports, in the UK food prices have risen by 22 percent in the last three years. Despite the negative effects on consumers, supermarket giants remain intent on "playing tricks" to squeeze every last penny from their loyal customers. "Unmissable", "two for the price of one" or "three for the price of two" deals bombard shoppers, causing them to cram unnecessary items into their shopping trolleys, only to find they are past their sell by date – another regular complaint of my mother-in-law. Many tinned products such as beans and peas mainly consist of fluid with a few measly peas floating inside.

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