Sunday, October 16, 2011

B.A.D: At What Cost?

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011 Today is Blog Action Day (B.A.D)! This event really served as the impetus for rejuvenating my blog in 2009, with climate change as the year's theme. Food is actually this year's theme, but it has thrown me for a loop. Everything I write about has some connection to food, so choosing one topic on which to focus is rather a toss up. However, as it happens, today also marks the 30th annual World Food Day. Coincidence? I think not! This year's theme is Food Prices - From Crisis to Stability.

We have explored food prices to some extent, particularly with regards to how increases have already impacted my baking inclination. According to FAO, rising food prices, at their all-time highest this year, have set 70 million people back into poverty. Now it seems that the cause of food price volatility would be a pretty straight-forward, supply side issue. But in fact, there are many drivers including trade policies, distorting trade policies, and extreme weather and temperature events.

In the States we don't experience these food price hikes in the same way as those in developing countries. Particularly for the portion of the population which spends a disproportionate amounts its income on food, even purchasing the staple grains and starches to feed a family is a stretch. Curiously enough, many small-scale farmers in the developing world are actually net buyers of food, despite producing crops. This means, that you get a very poor subset, suffering acutely from higher food costs.

This, of course, varies between countries and regions within a country. Oxfam International has created its own visual to depict the hunger predicament in countries in the global south, influenced largely by food prices, addressing the key culprits behind each country's situation. World Food Programme (WFP) has set up a FAQ around these price changes.

I don't have any answer. Policy changes and research and development have been proposed over and over as solutions to overcoming these recurring and worsening challenge. That said, it is difficult with such a complex global food economy to ensure that funds go to those who need it most. Have a happy Blog Action Day, and I hope you have some quality time to dwell on issues of food!

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