Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Extreme Weather Pushes Food Prices Even Higher

Global food prices are already at a record high and will continue to rise because of this year's extreme weather.

flooded field

Photo: Lance Cheung for the USDA (Flickr)

To save crops that were threatened by Mississippi River flood waters, farmers harvested wheat two weeks early.

USDA, Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO), and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) all agree: extreme weather in 2011 will contribute to rising food prices.

Weather Woes For Corn And Wheat

In the Midwest and South of the United States, dangerous storms and heavy rains have delayed planting or destroyed crops that were already planted.

Corn crops in particular were hurt because farmers plant by mid-May for a maximum harvest. Prices have already risen from $3.20 a bushel in 2010 to $7.75 a bushel in 2011.

The meat industry will also feel the effects of the corn crunch since corn is used to feed livestock. The OECD-FAO report estimates that commodity prices for meat will increase 30 percent.

In addition to human consumption and feed for livestock, corn is in high demand to create biofuels.

Because of severe weather in Russia and Australia, heatwaves in Europe, and floods in the United States, global wheat production declined. When combined with lower worldwide yields of other important crops like grains and oil seeds, cereal prices will increase 20 percent.

Class Issues And Food

Shoppers who buy from big food companies like Kraft, Kellogg, and Sara Lee may not notice an extreme price hike in any one food item. That’s because those organizations tend to spread out price increases of specific ingredients over all of their food products.

On the other hand, the poor will be hurt the most by rising food prices. According Ben Grossman-Cohen for Oxfam America, already about a billion people go hungry every day because they can’t afford to grow or buy enough food.

The UN has already issued a warning that food riots may break out, especially in developing nations where many already struggle to afford food. Spiraling inflation and rising stock prices for food may be the last straw for people trying to feed their families.

Possible Solutions

Unless the global food system is changed, Oxfam International reports that food prices will more than double within 20 years. They urge the EU to make the global food market more secure in these ways:

  • Tackle speculation on agricultural commodities to put a stop to spiraling food prices.
  • Put an end to the biofuels mandates and subsidies that fuel food prices volatility and land grabs in developing countries.
  • Invest in small scale food producers in developing countries.
  • Lead in the fight against climate change and its impact on global food production.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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