Food Prices Rising Around the World
Many areas of the world are expecting poor harvests, highlighting our modern world’s continuing dependence on rain in due season. With food prices rising, many won’t have enough money for food.
In the best of times, hunger and malnutrition stalk millions of people around the world. “One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight,” says an appeal for the World Food Programme.
But the situation would have been much worse without the green revolution that has vastly increased crop yields even as the world population has continued to grow. Without the use of artificial fertilizers and the development of crops with higher yields (no matter the long-term consequences), the large-scale famines predicted in the 1960s would surely have come.
In a best-selling 1967 book, William and Paul Paddock boldly predicted Famine 1975! America’s Decision: Who Will Survive? Their thesis was believable based on the food insecurity of the time, though they were not able to predict the scientific advances that staved off widespread starvation over the last 40 years.
But are we approaching the limits of scientific advancements even as we face a formidable foe that we have little control over—extreme weather?
The American drought
Over half of the United States is facing the effects of the lack of rain. Time magazine addressed the American drought in its Aug. 6 issue in the article “When the Rains Stop.”
“The torrid weather is hitting at a time when grain stockpiles are unusually low, increasing pressure on prices. If the drought lingers—and weather forecasts offer neither rain nor hope—we can expect to see more-costly food across the board this fall in the U.S. and, even worse, in developing nations where hundreds of millions already go hungry. …
“A reduction in the American harvest translates to higher prices overseas. Global food prices have slowly but steadily increased since 2004, with sharp spikes in 2007 and 2010. It’s likely not a coincidence that social unrest in places like Latin America and the Middle East followed those spikes. Global stocks of corn and soybeans were tight even before the drought. ‘We’re on the verge of another crisis, the third one in five years, and likely to be the worst yet,’ says Yaneer Bar-Yam. …”
Heavy rains and lack of rain in Russia
Another major grain exporter is also predicting a smaller harvest this year.
Ria Novosti reported July 31, “Russia will harvest 10-15 percent less grain this year than in 2011 due to unfavorable weather conditions, Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov said. …
“Russia’s wheat prices have shot up owing to the drought in the United States, and some Russian regions and heavy rains in the south of Russia earlier this year.”
Increasing food prices hit Africa hard
Higher prices for food are bad enough for consumers in wealthy nations, where the food is only a small part of consumers’ spending. But in areas where food is the largest expense, increases can be catastrophic. This can be especially true in the areas of Africa bordering the Sahara desert (the Sahel), a region prone to recurring droughts.
In June l’Humanite in English posted an interview with Clara Jamart, a specialist in food security for Oxfam France. The conditions she described are frightening:
“The price of foodstuffs is high all over the world, not just in the Sahel. Every month, the FAO produces an index of world food prices. It was at 214 points last month, which is higher than in 2008, during the food riots when it was at 200 points. As for the Sahel, contrary to what usually happens, the price of cereals hasn’t dropped after the harvests. Foodstuffs are between 25-50% more expensive compared to the average for the last five years. And it is thought that prices could increase again by 25-30% in July and August.”
Such increases will push thousands more into desperation, malnutrition and famine.
India drying up
This short blog post cannot cover all the weather-related crop damage around the world, but let’s consider one more country facing problems—a country that William and Paul Paddock worried about 45 years ago when its population was less than half of its current size.
India is suffering one of its driest summers in decades, which is very worrisome to the hundreds of millions of small farmers in the country.
“To date, rainfall is about 17% below the 50-year average. But in northwestern grain bowl states such as Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan the deficiency has been much worse, with rainfall of 60%-70% below average,” reported The Wall Street Journal Aug. 8.
“El Niño, a weather phenomenon that usually disrupts rainfall in India, is expected to emerge in September and could further deepen the crisis.”
What can we do about the weather?
The world’s agriculture is dependent on favorable weather. As they have for millennia, farmers hope and pray for rain in due season.
The Creator God is ultimately in control of the weather. Though it seems He usually allows weather patterns to continue in their own cycles, which humanity still does not completely understand, He tells us that sometimes He steps in to control the weather.
He tells us that when a nation obeys His good and beneficial laws, He can provide blessings. “The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand” (Deuteronomy 28:12).
This punishment of drought and famine is predicted to increase in the end times as human conduct becomes worse and worse (Matthew 24:7). Famine is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:5-6).
The good news is that Jesus Christ promises to return to save humanity from self-destruction and slavery to sin (Matthew 24:21-22). Then He will bring the peace and abundance of the Kingdom of God, including rain in its season and an abundance of grain (Joel 2:23-24).
Read more about this promised time of plenty—when the weather will be a blessing instead of a curse—in our section on the Kingdom of God.