Six degrees of starvin' nations

In 788 words, Paul Krugman sums up the global policy trap surrounding food. It's not funny or youtube, but it is insightful. He goes from the food crisis to emerging economies to oil prices to bad weather to biofuel to political mis-management.

Here's the beginning of Krugman's NY Times Op-ed 7Apr2008, "Grains Gone Wild":

These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.

I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.

There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers — and making things even worse in countries that need to import food.

How did this happen? The answer is a combination of long-term trends, bad luck — and bad policy.
Article continues in link above

Posted by Mirzipan on April 9, 2008 with category tags of

1 comment
Nice article. I was slightly disappointed that the "what do we do now" section was relegated to 2 sentences and focussed on short term solutions. Okay fine, aid and a criticism of biofuels are needed, but the systematic issues that the article brought up weren't really addressed in terms of restructuring the food import system.

Maybe try trade agreements based on necessity similar to the provisions in NAFTA concerning oil? NAFTA isn't nec. the best document to emulate, but something similar as far as ensuring access to food from imports may be useful. Otherwise, somehow convincing governments to return to semi-isolationist policies on food? I dunno.

So much of this isn't new. We haven't really made many inroads on these issues in the last few decades, and it still remains largely ignored. We've known of the problems with undermining food self-sufficiency for awhile:
   comment by Alex (#118) on April 11, 2008


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