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Food Shortages – The Next World Crisis?

By James Donahue

It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that the turmoil in the Middle East and the growing world demand for energy is forcing the price of that dwindling resource, crude oil, through the roof. And as gasoline and diesel prices rise, it is having an impact on the world’s food supply.

We have already felt the hike in food prices at the grocery stores across North America. This has been caused by the extra cost of transporting food from the various places where fresh produce is grown and where processed food is packaged. Moving away from the family-owned and operated farms to industrial farming was a big mistake. We should have seen this coming.

But there is a bigger issue involving the world food bank that is staring us in the face. It is like the elephant in the room . . . so big and so obvious that most people have failed to notice it is happening right before their eyes. This is the violent and changing weather patterns.

The large flooded parts of the Midwest, draught and flash fires sweeping the Southwest and the extreme storms and heat waves hammering the south and Midwestern states is bound to have an effect on whatever crops the farmers are struggling to put in the ground this season. And they are doing this at high cost of production.

This is not a problem isolated to the United States or North America. The high cost of fuel and extreme weather changes are global in scope. If you have been watching the world news you know there has been record flooding in Australia and Brazil and extremely dry weather is affecting crops in other parts of the world

The bad weather is fueling commodity speculation. A glance at Bloomberg or Forbes shows that speculators have been buying large quantities of grain and other food stuffs in anticipation of big price hikes and big profits. Hard hit has been the price of commodities like corn, soybeans, wheat, coco, coffee and sugar.

While the media has not been giving us specifics, the unrest, rioting and violence occurring in the Middle East and other places like Chile, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia is mostly over the high price of food and other commodities. There is no work and those who have jobs do not earn enough to feed their families.

North Korea reports extreme crop failure due to an extremely severe winter and is asking for world aid to prevent mass starvation. The situation is already so severe that North Koreans are reportedly foraging for wild grasses, herbs and even tree bark to stave off hunger.

The United Nations reports that 80 countries currently face food shortages this year, with at least 30 of them facing critical need and possible famine. The world supply of wheat is expected to drop by 5.1 percent to 647.7 million tons while the demand could hit 668 million tons.

So is the problem caused by changing weather patterns and global warming? That may be part of it. But another major factor has been an exploding world population. At the last census the world was packing over 6 billion people. This number is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2040. At the same time the soil has been over farmed, the seas have been over fished and there is a general degradation of the environment.