Last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16% (see chart 1). These were some of the sharpest rises in food prices ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated. Since January, rice prices have soared 141%; the price of one variety of wheat shot up 25% in a day.Economist.
As just one example, in Bangladesh, it is estimated that sixty million people currently face severe food shortages because of the spikes in rice prices. The current global crisis threatens to throw tens of millions into deep poverty, overturn governments, and unleash waves of violence:
The UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, earlier blamed the crisis on biofuels, speculation on commodities markets, and EU export subsidies. "Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time - just as Marx thought," he told the Austrian newspaper Kurier am Sonntag. "This is silent mass murder."Guardian.
Food riots have broken out in at least a dozen countries, most notably in Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Yemen and Mexico. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing, while Russia has frozen the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil. Indonesia has increased public food subsidies, while India has banned the export of rice, except the high-quality basmati variety.
Earlier this month, Haiti's parliament dismissed the prime minister, and cut the price of rice, in an attempt to defuse widespread anger at food price hikes that led to days of protests and looting in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Thousands of garment workers in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, also went on strike this month over spiralling prices. The price of rice, the staple Bangladeshi food, has increased by a third since a devastating cyclone last year. Experts say 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go without daily meals.
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, has urged the nations of the world to respond, laying out the grave nature of the crisis:
"The World Health Organisation now views hunger as the number one threat to public health across the world, responsible for a third of child deaths and 10% of all disease," wrote Mr Brown.BBC.
"Tackling hunger is a moral challenge to each of us and it is also a threat to the political and economic stability of nations."
The current global food crisis is a massive, steadily building disaster that is inflicting incalculable misery and pain; if not dealt with quickly, the food crisis may claim thousands upon thousands of lives.
Please do what you can to help: UN World Food Program