Stockpiling food and rioting over access to a life-sustaining bowl of grain are becoming a way of life in some of the poorest parts of the world, as a global food crisis sets in.
Late Tuesday, World Vision, one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations, announced that it can't provide food for 1.5 million people. Put another way, it will feed only 77% of the needy families it fed last year. Put another: People will starve.
"Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid," said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. "Around 572,000 of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive."
In Haiti, highly publicized riots have broken out over access to enough food to survive a day. Egypt, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Argentina and Senegal have all shown signs of stress from tight food supplies, and those supplies could tighten further, which would drive up the price further. Already, the World Food Program is $755 million short of the cash it needs to feed the hungry, and that figure has increased more than 50% in the space of days.
India and Vietnam have restricted rice exports to ensure they can feed their populace, and the world's largest producer, Thailand, may also restrict exports, according to the BBC. The prices of rice, corn, wheat and other staples are at or near record highs in world markets, due in part to extreme weather that destroyed crops in some parts of the world, such as Cyclone Sider in Bangladesh, as well as the siphoning off of cropland for biofuel production in the U.S. and elsewhere, which drove up crop prices.
The food price crisis a "silent tsunami" for 100 million poor people around the world, in a United Nations coinage is even being felt in the United States, and not just among the poor.
"Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing," the New York Sun reports today in "Food Rationing Confronts the Breadbasket of the World". "Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks."
And Wall Street Journal writer Brett Arends had this suggestion for savvy investors: Stockpile food.
"Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund," he wrote. "And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster. ...
"Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to Bankrate.com. And those yields are before tax. Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.
Maybe some of the profits from that investment can be donated to feed the starving.
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