Casualties of the World Food Crisis

The title isn’t mine, as it comes from a post from the Guardian. Possible hyperbole aside, the news of six different food products that we take for granted are now becoming notably rare is worth examining. The two that raised my eyebrows were:

Bread in Russia

The price of bread has risen dramatically in Russia following the heatwave in August, which wiped out more than a fifth of the country’s grain crop and caused devastating wildfires in the European part of the country.

Prices have risen by at least 20% over the past two months, with further rises likely. Before August’s drought, a loaf of white bread cost around 16 roubles, or 33p. Now it is 20 roubles. A loaf of brown once cost 20 roubles (41p); now it costs 24 roubles. “The price of bread has definitely gone up. It’s stayed the same for other things like biscuits,” Olga, a bread-seller at a Moscow kiosk, said today.

Historically speaking, the price (and accessibility) of bread has often been seen as one of the indicators of civil unrest. Do I think Russia is particularly at risk? Not at all, certainly not at 70 cents for a loaf of brown bread. But anytime anyone mentions the rise in the cost of bread, my Spidey-senses start tingling.

The other issue that caught my eye?

Sugar in Pakistan

Wheat may be Pakistan’s staple food, but milky chai (tea) is the national drink. And as most Pakistanis will testify, such tea without a mound of sugar is barely worthy of the name. One recent survey found that Pakistanis considered a cup of sweet tea to be their second most important food source after bread; annual consumption of sugar is around 4m tonnes. It is also the country’s second largest cash crop, after cotton. Consequently, the price of sugar is of great importance – and in recent years the news has been unremittingly bad.

In recent years, demand for sugarcane has dramatically outstripped supply, pushing prices up and leading to stiff political consequences. Since December 2008 sugar prices have more than doubled, to about $1 per kg, according to the Pakistan economic survey, heaping misery on a country already labouring under severe flooding, power shortages, unemployment and looming economic collapse.

Pakistan is sugar country. at least from a historical perspective. It was this region of the world where sugar really took hold into various cultures, and where historians believe that the process for making granulated sugar became more sophisticated, if not outright discovered. Saying that sugar costs are rising in Pakistan is akin to saying that corn prices are raising in the United States.

Corn in the United States

Corn prices in the US have soared this month amid fears of shortages, a rise that could lead to higher food costs.

Oh.

Well damn.