The World Bank reports that due to high and volatile food prices, over 44 million additional people have plummeted into poverty. Corn prices, for example, have doubled since last year from a $4 commodity to a $7 commodity. Clearly this affects corn producers, but it also significantly hurts consumers, especially those who subsist on less than $1 a day. People in this income range typically spend the vast majority of their income on food. Consequently, the more money that’s spent on food, the less money that’s spent on education, healthcare, or savings. Women and children are typically the individuals most greatly affected by the food crisis’ complex detriment on daily life.
So what led to rising food prices? Grains Analyst FAO Abdolreza Abbassian attributed the price spike to variable weather conditions like the extreme cold in Russia, floods in Pakistan, rains in Europe, and floods in Australia. While this makes it simple to blame weather for 2010 and 2011’s food price hikes, Abbassian warns that the crisis is much more complex. A combination of factors, like low inventories of food and insufficient investments in agriculture, made counties vulnerable to weather phenomenon. Additionally, poor farming practices, bad harvests, competing market interests, rising oil prices, and poor access to water leaves our world a hungrier, more inequitable place.
This is just a preview to the complex conversations and debates that took place during the World Bank’s open forum earlier this week. From April 15-17th, over 500 people from 91 countries contributed to the global discussion on the food crisis. 15 of the world’s leading hunger experts convened to join in on this conversation. Although the factors that lead to food insecurity are complex and interwoven, just as many global crises can be addressed after we make equitable access to food a priority. When food is plentiful, then children will go to school full and ready to learn, mothers will be healthier, and thus maternal health can improve. More efficient farming techniques will lead to better environmental sustainability. It is then that we can untangle this complex crisis and see improvements in the others.
Want to join the conversation? Check out the Open Forum’s panel discussions and videos here.