"In a worrying report due to be released this week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, scientists predict that 854 million people will suffer unacceptable levels of food deprivation within the coming decade.
Equally disturbing is the prediction that the world will have to increase food production by 50% by 2030 - and unless that happens food prices will go through the roof, there will be shortages of basics such as cereals and rice and as stocks disappear there will be real hardship, chiefly among the poor.
Worst affected will be countries that rely on imports. There have already been riots in countries including Bangladesh over shortages of rice and the subsequent hiking of prices, and there is now an uneasy feeling that this could remain the norm, especially if neighbouring countries place restrictions on exports to protect their own markets."
As with any crisis of this kind there are no simple answers and even the experts have been hard pushed to come up with a reason for the onset of this unexpected challenge. There are lots of obvious clues - production failing to keep pace with population growth being the most apparent - but most of what we know is deeply unpalatable. We've become far too greedy not just in the amounts that we eat, but in the way that we expect food to be consistently cheap and freely available.
Take the humble green bean, once a late summer treat but now to be found on supermarket shelves all the year round. Most of the supplies come from east African countries where low labour costs drive down production costs to keep the western world happy. But nothing is for nothing. Those very countries that produce the green bean are among the heaviest importers of food, mainly cereals, and as the prices rise, so do the shortages get worse. Add on increased fuel costs, globalisation and unnecessary meddling in food commodity futures markets and the picture gets bleaker. Sniff the wind, so to speak, and you'll sense that change is in the offing and that we're entering a new age of high prices and fuel and food shortages that will force us to alter our perceptions.
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