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Hunger and high prices

A record was set on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange The Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) was formed in 1881 as a cash market for grains. The exchange launched its first futures contract, hard red spring wheat two years later.  yesterday, when US spring wheat any kind of wheat sown in the spring; - in distinction from winter wheat, which is sown in autumn.

See also: Spring
 surged above $20 a bushel bushel: see English units of measurement. . Interest in such news would not normally reach beyond the ranches of the mid-western prairies. But it is only the latest sign that the long era of cheap food is finally over. It arrives at the end of a month when the implications have started to be felt around the world.

Ahead of the Chinese new year Chinese New Year (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; Pinyin: Chūnjié), or Spring Festival  on February 7, the authorities in Beijing suspended their faith in the market forces that have brought prosperity and placed restrictions on the price of meat to ensure that the party went smoothly. On Valentine's Day Valentine's Day: see Saint Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day

Lovers' holiday celebrated on February 14, the feast day of St. Valentine, one of two 3rd-century Roman martyrs of the same name. St.
, the governor of the Bank of England The Governor of the Bank of England is the most senior position in the Bank of England. It is nominally a civil service post, but the appointment tends to be from within the Bank, with the incumbent grooming his or her successor.  made no attempt to win the hearts of cash-strapped shoppers; instead he warned them that more expensive food would inevitably affect living standards living standards nplnivel msg de vida

living standards living nplniveau m de vie

living standards living npl
. Last week, General Musharraf faced defeat in the parliamentary polls: western reporting emphasised Pakistan's security situation, but the vicissitudes vicissitudes
Noun, pl

changes in circumstance or fortune [Latin vicis change]

vicissitudes nplvicisitudes fpl; peripecias fpl 
 of the wheat price was the bigger factor on the ground. Then yesterday, the UN agency charged with relieving hunger told the Financial Times that it was having to contemplate tough choices, potentially including cutting the number of people it helps or the amount of sustenance Sustenance

goat who provided milk for baby Zeus. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 41]


food of the gods; bestowed immortal youthfulness. [Gk. Myth.
 they receive. Although the World Food Programme soon calmed fears that it was about to turn away the starving, it stressed that it urgently needed $500m a year extra to deal with the runaway costs.

The effects of costlier food are all the more serious because it is something the world has grown unaccustomed to coping with. For a quarter of a century after the mid-1970s, new technologies and freer trade combined to make food almost continuously cheaper. The price of wheat, for example, dropped by more than 80% between 1973 and 2000, once allowance is made for overall inflation. In the last year, however, creeping rises quickened to a canter - and then a gallop gallop /gal·lop/ (gal´op) a disordered rhythm of the heart; see also under rhythm.

atrial gallop  S

diastolic gallop  S

presystolic gallop  S

. The real cost of wheat has not yet returned to 1970s levels, but it is now more than double what it was a few years ago. If the trend continues, the bread and butter of rich-world politics could become real bread and butter once more. It is in the poor world, though, that the effects will be most grave: the cost of food can often be counted in human lives.

Whether prices continue to rise, however, depends on what has driven them up so far. Since Thomas Malthus in the 18th century, pessimists have blamed every incidence of scarcity on the rising population. They have been wrong in the past, and they are wrong this time, too. While the world population continues to grow, it is doing so at a much slower rate than it was in the long decades when the price of food was falling. Climate change makes another obvious culprit, and perhaps it did play a role in last year's Australian drought. It is likely to become a serious threat to food security in future, but it is not an adequate explanation for high global food prices today, because far from falling off, global food production has continued to increase.

Demand, not supply, is the motor of the current food inflation. A growing taste for meat and dairy in newly prosperous parts of the world is one important factor. When it takes 10 kilos of feed to make one of beef, farming animals swallows land that might otherwise be feeding people. But the new middle classes of Beijing and Shanghai will not easily be persuaded that eating meat is a bad idea, especially if the persuasion comes from western countries that are far from vegan vegan /veg·an/ (ve´gan) (vej´an) a vegetarian whose diet excludes all food of animal origin.

. Meanwhile, subsidies to biofuels, particularly in the US, are distorting global farming. The 60m tonnes of American maize being burned each year represents more than twice the UK's entire cereal crop. The world wants cheaper food, and it wants more food - without the environmental consequences. In reconciling the three, the overriding priority must be ensuring that the hungry are not made even hungrier.
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Date:Feb 26, 2008
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