Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Food - In All Midst Of Scarcity Of Source And Finance

The Washington-based poverty-fighting institution said its food price index increased by 15% between October 2010 and January 2011.
It is just 3% below its 2008 peak during the last food price crisis and it thus translates into a 29% rise in food prices over the course of a year.

World Bank data released two days ago showed higher food prices for wheat, maize, sugars and edible oils.
Maize prices soar about 73% over six months, while prices for sugar for fats and oils have risen 20 and 22% respectively, in the past quarter alone.
It cautioned that rice prices needed monitoring given measures by some countries to significantly import more rice to boost domestic stocks. 
The rise in food prices have pushed 44 million more people in developing countries into extreme poverty since June 2010.

Catastrophic storms and droughts have hurt the world's leading agriculture-producing countries, including flooding and a massive cyclone in Australia, major winter storms in the United States, and fires last year in Russia.

Beijing has earmarked 13 billion yuan to combat drought.
The dry spell in northern China's wheat heartland has caused considerable concern abroad and even sparked a UN warning last week about the impact on winter crops, a key harvest for the world's biggest producer of the grain.
Dry spell had affected at least 7.7 million hectares of wheat crops but snow fell over the weekend across much of northern China including major wheat-producing provinces Shandong and Henan had somehow eased some concern.

China has sought to alleviate fears that will affect international food prices.
It has announced measures including diverting water to affected areas and constructing emergency wells and irrigation facilities.
The country is said to have "abundant" reserves of grain that were sufficient to meet the nation's needs.
If China were to buy a large amount of wheat overseas due to a crop failure, prices on world commodity markets would surge at a time when food costs are already causing governments headaches.

Huge swings in prices are characteristic of the latest bout of food inflation.
Asian inflation is amongst the most sensitive in the world to food price shocks, despite the likely introduction of further food subsidies and other price controls.

World Bank chief, Robert Zoellick said global food prices have reached "dangerous levels".
He warned of the impact that could complicate fragile political and social conditions in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The recent food price rises are causing pain and suffering for poor people around the globe.
He warned that a sharp rise in food prices across Central Asia could also have social and political implications for that region.

Although higher food prices were not the main cause leading to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia, it was an aggravating factor and could become worse.
A World Bank team was currently in Tunisia taking a closer look at the country's transition and assessing possible financing needs, including food assistance.

Egypt to him, may not need World Bank funds because its financing situation "is one that should be able to be managed" over the short term.
He was concerned that countries as Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan address causes of their social upheaval, higher food prices may add to "the fragility that is always there any time you have revolutions and transitions."

******

26-year-old Mohamed from Tunisia origin the series of demonstrations.
Since Mohamed could not find a job, he did an honest petty trade, sold fruits as a mobile hawker to feed his family of seven.
Despite that, he was often harassed, intimidated and bullied by the police.

Aspiring Mohamed had a dream, he had always wanted to buy a small van to expand his business, to avoid the police every few days.
However, his wish remained just a dream, an illusion, when on December last year, he was caught by a policewoman - Not only his fruits was confiscated, but his electronic weighing scales too.

To add salt to the already wounded wound, he was present with a slap on his face.
Not only was his business destroyed, he was humiliated too.
In indignant injustice, he protested by committing self-immolation in front of a government building.

The fire took the life of Mohamed, but ignited the flame of dissatisfaction with the government in North Africa. The Tunisian government eventually collapsed.

******

The Mohamed flare sparked the demonstration tide spread to Egypt.
Compared with the small country of Tunisia, Egypt has a population of 80 million, nearly half of the population is living on less than US$2 per day.
As many as 90% of the youths are under the age of 30. 
Around 60% of the entire population are unemployed, and many among them are highly educated but... jobless.
With no job and no income, yet the cost of living keeps escalating, they are living under great pressure, and staying afloat to survive is becoming more crucial.
But the government remained indifferent.

Resentment and bitterness accumulated.
The sacrificial death of Tunisian hero Mohamed has inspired the Egyptians to rise, mobilise and organise to fight for changes in their country.
The current situation in Egypt has caused concern around the world.

When times are good, housing, food and clothing are not the cause of worry, maybe official corruption, government mismanagement, and the existence of authoritarian regimes, could at least be tolerated.
But once daily needs are at stake and there is insufficient food on the table, people will rise against their government. 
Many citizens in the Middle East countries have almost similar destiny with the Egyptians and Tunisians. They are now expressing solidarity. 

Perhaps, the Mohamed flame is not just spreading in North Africa and the Middle East, but may spread all around the world - There are just too many Mohameds worldwide.
Regardless of any race, language, religion or ideology, Mohameds or not, as long as there is insufficient or no food at all, on the table, the grumbling of the empty stomach is all the same, all over the world.
If the government does not respond or pay heed to the voice and needs of the people, they will be condemned and more often than not, ousted.

The World Bank chief said the international community needed to be aware of such risks and should not exacerbate problems by imposing policies, such as export bans or price fixing, that would push global food prices even higher.
Global security is now about food security issue as he said, "There is no silver bullet to resolving the potent combination of rising and volatile food prices."

******

Unlike the 2007-08 food crisis, higher prices have not yet affected all regions of the world.
Across Asia and in some parts of Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, costlier food is pushing up inflationary pressures.
"Central Asia is a region where these good prices have increased substantially and given the poverty level... there is a real stress point that could have social and political implications," The World Bank chief, Zoellick said.

Meanwhile, good harvests in Sub-Saharan Africa have so far spared that region from rising prices.
There was less margin for error in Africa because of high poverty rates across the region, although in Burundi and Cameroon where bean prices, an important food source, have risen by more than 40%.

The bank said that the price rise swelled the ranks living in extreme poverty, which it defines as under US$1.25 (S$1.60) a day per person, forcing poorer people to eat less and often less-nutritious food and increasing malnutrition.
The poor spend more than 80% of their total disposable income on basic foods.
If prices keep rising, poor families have lesser and less nutritional food to keep them healthy.

Rich donor countries needed to focus food aid on Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, which face acute food price spikes.
Countries with limited farming space and low international foreign exchange reserves in their budgets, yet import commodities in large quantities may need funding help.
These countries are urged to scale up social programs to protect the nations.
Jittery commodity markets should be made calm by all international community.

Whether or not there is food on the table is no more a mere personal problem, but an issue of dire consequences, affecting even the survival of a government.
The tidal wave after wave of demonstrations in the North African countries is a wake-up call, and its revolutionary echo is reverberating around the world.

******

However, as in Egypt and Tunisia, technology is playing its part.
Technology keeps Africans informed about what they are owed.
With more than 500 million mobile phones in Africa, compared with around 50 million a decade ago, African governments risk unrest of their own citizens.

The continent is facing as many as 17 elections this year against the backdrop of seismic political upheaval in the Middle East.
Voters might take to the streets or using the ballot box to demand what is supposed to be due to them.
Many African countries are due to have elections within the next two years.
The nation wants a decent share of what belongs to them - The continent's wealth.

The continent  is home to 90% of the world’s platinum reserves and a large chunk of world's gold.
It is said, Africa has about 30% of the world’s mineral resources yet it only produces about 10% of the world’s minerals.

How great is the wealth sitting beneath Africa’s soil?
Doesn't the wealth waiting for calls?
Will it continue to be preserved?
Benefiting no citizen who should deserve?
Will it be evenly shared by all?
Or just by a family despite the nation's fall?

Extreme Weather Pushes Food Prices Higher - February 2, 1011

Extreme Weather Events Helps Drive Food Prices To Record Highs - January 6, 2011

2 comments:

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Ummie, very interesting reading. And I guess the Middle East now going thru a self discovery change.
With the advance in technology today, people want what only the politicians enjoy...

and my thoughts, throw the bums out!
Read about Mubarak having about 60 US $ BILLION.
And banks everywhere freezing his assets.
Practically all these politicians amassed huge fortunes and not caring 2 hoots for their people.

Re food prices going up....we don't really feel it here as so far, we getting them almost similar prices 6 years ago.....as very stiff competition vs government controls re raising prices.
No tax on food here.

Have a nice day.
ps, didn't know you in JB.
Used to live on Bukit Serene, close to Mechinta nite club, Straits View restaurant, hotel and tu rumah besar, you know who.
Love JB too.
Lee.

Ummie said...

Watching Jazeera now, showing the Chinese Hui contemplating what to do with the meager return of rmb for their winter harvest of their wheat farm.
Sad, sad, sad :(,,,

Latest news on tv -
Tunisian ex-President in coma.
Chaos in Bahrain.
Libyans defy order.
Earlier, just read Mubarak still wish to die in Egypt.

What is the world up to?
Where is the trust thrust upon the willing shoulders of these leaders?