A Look Behind Rising Food Prices: Population Growth; Rising Oil Prices; Weather Events

This is a guest post by Dr. Gary Peters. He is a retired geography professor and author of Population Geography.

Rising food prices, crowned by a recent record high spike and chronicled in the graph below, have played a role in triggering the spread of unrest that we’ve witnessed recently from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond. Though most residents of rich countries can absorb higher food costs without much struggle, residents of poor countries, especially those living in major urban areas such as Cairo, cannot. Higher food prices are immediate threats to their health and, in some cases, even their lives, especially those of the very young and the elderly.

Figure 1. Illustration from the New York Times.

The current spike in food prices, which has now exceeded the price spike in 2008, has been blamed on various factors, including unusual weather events, higher demand, smaller crop yields, and the diversion of food crops to biofuels. Continue reading

Population, Food Supplies, and the Big Unasked Question

This is a guest post by Dr. Gary Peters, author of the textbook Population Geography.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi on November 23, 2010, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf stated, “The key to long-term food security lies in boosting investment in agriculture, particularly in low-income food-deficit countries.” He also noted, “The rapid increase in hunger and malnourishment since the food crisis of 2008 reveals the inadequacy of the present global food system and the urgent need for structural changes….The food price and economic crises have had a severe impact on millions of people in all parts of the world.”

Undernourished in 2010 by Region according to FAO

Undernourished in 2010 by Region according to FAO's "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010."

Mr. Diouf’s comments are supported by many, if not most, economists. Continue reading