With the harsh weather in Australia, the drought in China, wheat prices are expected to go waaay up. Seems like our basic breads and cereals will see some price increases as well. This is no good.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Everything now depends on this year’s harvest. Lowering food prices to a more comfortable level will require a bumper grain harvest, one much larger than the record harvest of 2008 that combined with the economic recession to end the 2007-08 grain price climb.
If the world has a poor harvest this year, food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread, and governments will fall. The world is now one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets.
Demand for wheat from Australia, the fourth-biggest shipper, is strong, said exporter AWB, as buyers from Europe to the Philippines battle for supplies amid prices near their highest level in more than two years.
From Wall Street Journal:
Prices surged to their highest intraday level since late August 2008 after the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, said severe drought in China’s main winter wheat region could pose a serious threat to the Asian giant’s output. The reduced production comes as world markets already face supply strains, particularly for high-quality wheat used for flour.
A leaked report by the World Bank, purportedly confirms that biofuels, not increased demand from India and China, has caused the world’s food prices to increase by 75%.
President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: “Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases
The news also suggests that the report was finished back in April, but was held back:
It all sounds to corny to me, hehehe….
In its annual report, the Red Cross warned of a possible surge in “food-related violence” due to soaring food prices. It suggests that several factors are contributing to the rise is prices:
Drought and climate change have led to a slow down in the growth of agricultural production: in Australia, wheat production plummeted by 52% between 2004 and 2006, and grain production dropped by 13% in the United States and 14% in the European Union in the same period. The use of mainly corn-based biofuels is also contributing significantly to the current shortages. Lastly, changes in eating habits in the West and in the so-called emerging markets primarily in Asia, along with rapid urbanization, have driven up demand for food, putting further strain on supply. Speculation on food commodities is also a major destabilizing factor.
There’s been a warning of food riots every month, from different sources. Sounds like things may destabilize in parts of the world by the end of the year.
As I said back in March, riots over food prices have begun. In fact, this month in Haiti, the prime minister was ousted over food-related rioting and death.
A recent NYTimes Editorial describes the current situation. Although the rise in food prices are partly a result of “uncontrollable forces — including rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India”, rich nations are making the problem worse by increasing biofuel production:
The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years. This elevated corn prices. Feed prices rose. So did prices of other crops — mainly soybeans — as farmers switched their fields to corn, according to the Agriculture Department.
Rice is a staple for half the world. Rice prices have almost doubled this year, mostly due to countries like India and Vietnam banning the export of certain types of rice. India has tried to control domestic costs by raising the export prices of non-basmati rice. In Thailand, there are reports that about 200,000 tons of rice (worth over $100 million) have gone missing from national warehouses. Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour.
In a world where there are millions of people who are wealthy, smart, and creative, we shouldn’t be rioting over food.
The dollar touched a record low of $1.5651 against the euro and crude oil reached a record $111 a barrel. Grocery costs are expected to go up further with the rise in the cost of wheat.
And JPMorgan Chase, along with the Feds, are trying to bail out Bear Stearns, an 85 year old investment bank, whose stock lost more than 20% of it’s value in recent days.
CCNWON has a good writeup of stagflation. In it he shows how commodity prices have gone up in recent years yet the wages for the average American has gone down about 2%.
Food prices continue to go up due to more demand for grains, oil prices, and population growth in developing countries. Even my local bagel store had to raise bagel prices to $0.85. Wheat prices surged on Monday this week, and demand for soyoil/soybeans has been solid. Irwin Kellner comments in Marketwatch, explaining “Why it takes a lot more bread to buy dough these days”.