What Are the Most Significant Underlying Factors Behind Recent Food Riots?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 16, 2008

Issues surrounding food price and availability recently appeared on magazine covers and front page news reports. In some cases, rioting broke out over price increases and shortages. News reports cited a variety of reasons for the recent spike in some commodity shortages and prices.

In your view, what are the most significant underlying factors behind these events and what should be done about it?

Comments

Comments

NB
|
Pakistan
April 17, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

In Pakistan too food shortage & increase in prices have caused rioting in several cities. In my opinion there are several factors involved in Pakistan. Wrong policies by the former government, hoarding and profiteering by the mafiasco, and some politically motivated in order to destablize the newly elected government. It could also be the mafiasco's way of telling the government to give them importance or else!

Sean
|
District Of Columbia, USA
April 18, 2008

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:

@ NB in Pakistan -- NB, I'd be interested to hear more of your description of events in your country in reaction to the rise in food prices. How much press coverage do the riots receive? Are you and your friends talking about it?

Would also be interested to hear similar reports from others living elsewhere.

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
April 18, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

1. Greed
2. Economics
3. Poor Leadership
4. Infrastructure

Instead of World Global Economics which forces dependency and creates separation not free markets, it would be more intelligent to make each country self sufficient where possible. The perfect example is America, the U.S.A. When we were totally independent and self sufficient, we all had more and the American Dream was a Tangible, not intangible. It is the foundation on which we live today, though the mortar and bricks are being lost. We were able to afford the money we spent on our People and could back our currency, not make promissory notes and drafts.

Presently, here in America which symbolizes equality, why do we demonstrate that the lower income classes bear the burden of having less proportionately due to legislature which sold jobs overseas under the pretext of Global Economics and did not protect the foundation class of America? Does that not make us like any third world country in precedence?

Felix
|
United States
April 18, 2008

Felix in U.S.A. writes:

Food it's a big problem in Pakistan. Wrong policies by the former government it's the big problem there, inocent people have a bad life because of them.

Dan
|
Oklahoma, USA
April 18, 2008

Dan in Oklahoma writes:

Increased energy and transportation costs -- as well as greed, hording, theft, food losses from improper storage, and climatic change have all acted to make food less available, and more costly. The U.S. policy of providing unlimited subsidies to large industrial farms (in the U.S.) have acted to lower food production worldwide -- by making overseas production less profitable. Corn ethanol has proven to be a mistake, and has contributed to increased food and feed costs in the U.S., and worldwide. Development of cellulosic ethanol technologies would have prevented this problem.) Promotion of chemical agricultural practices have damaged water, soils, and the environment, so the chemical companies acted to reduce overall food production. UNFAO and USAID have been mostly taken over by administrators who lack the technical skills needed to help increase food/ feed/ fiber production. Declining water resources are being managed very poorly. Extension agricultural programs have not been properly developed, so most farmers are not getting the technical support needed. Extensive corruption of the U.S. political process, by special interests, has made it impossible to correct most of the above said problems. (My comments are based on five decades of agricultural development experience, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.)

Ronald
|
New York, USA
April 18, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

The global food crises are a direct result of economic and political plate techtonic shifts away from aid and toward privatization in a synthetic world market. "Food Riots" are only the beginning. There will be riots for water, medicine, shelter, and other basic commodities which define civil humanity. The problem is not the riots; the riot is a funtional response to chronic hunger. When the riot stops; then there is a real problem. People too weak to express their intolerance for impending starvation.

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
April 20, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

I believe if you read April's copy of Russia Review, "How Russia did not become a Market Economy" it will give insight to why Free Markets will not work today.

We NEED it to work, because it's all we have to back our money up. This is why America needs to bring work back home and stabilize. We need to be self sufficient again or we will have to a form Universal socialism out of necessity.

We are the only hope left for a free world...not Corporations, but Democracy. Corporations are not Democracies in reality.

Come up with all the excuses you want, its:
1. Greed
2. Economics
3. Poor Leadership
4. Infrastructure

The world will sooner or latter have to have a Universal establishment of shared wealth in one form or another to offset all the travesties we place upon ourselves in basic necessities. We will have to accept a no tolerance stand toward world Leaders who negatively impact this smaller planet we reside on. This was the purpose of the UN and NATO. The US is doing the job of everyone now and simply can't afford to keep it up. Every country has to step up to the plate.

Dave
|
United States
April 21, 2008

Dave in U.S.A. writes:

Education is critical if food shortages are to be resolved.

In some areas, 20 to 40 percent of foods produced are lost due to improper storage. When and where chemical companies have over-promoted use of agricultural chemicals, soil fertility has been reduced and food yields are less. These problems -- and other factors reducing food production/ delivery -- could be resolved with effective agricultural extension programs. However, many developing nations have not been willing or financially able to pay for quality extension efforts. The alternative solution is providing quality Radio Schools to economically and efficiently deliver self-help instruction designed to eliminate food production/ delivery problems, one-by-one. UNFAO and USAID personnel are now mostly administrators with few skills in providing technical or extension-type assistance. They have been unwilling to support Radio Schools because they don't understand the concept. In brief, solutions to most food crises are possible --- but we have yet to effectively employ such solutions. Our charity, NPI, is trying to start Radio Schools for Pakistan and other critical areas. (USAID has refused to consider any funding for these projects for the reason stated above.)

NB
|
Pakistan
April 21, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

@ State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack -- Greetings.

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word riots. There were protests with tires being burnt in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, near Chaman Border in Balochistan and enroute Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. These took place in the end of January and early February. Yes, the television medium reported these but only in the form of news-tickers, otherwise there was hush-hush about the whole affair. I remember there was a clampdown on media at that time. I don't know if they were reported in the newspapers because I don't buy them regularly.

In Hyderabad, Sukkur, & Multan the protests were against non-availability of wheat-flour and unaffordable vegetable prices, whereas near the Chaman border trucks of wheat flour got looted and in NWFP two truckloads of wheat flour got hijacked.

There are almost regular fights outside the government owned Utility Stores where wheat flour is sold at government fixed rate which is at least 8 rupees/kilogram less than the market price. However, these are individual incidents and cannot be termed as riots or protests.

The situation for future looks bleak. This year's harvest is 3 million tons less than last year's. This is according to government figures.

I hope I succeed in posting this on the blog, I tried it early in the morning but failed. Despite subscribing to 3 ISPs, I have connectivity problems.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 22, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

@ Dave in U.S.A. -- Yes, I'm sure the Radio School to help the farmers will greatly improve food production. Will the radio transmission be on a.m. band? Dave, could you please tell me if your NGO (that is NPI) has an office in Pakistan? ...And please tell me what NPI stands for. Thanks.

John
|
Greece
April 22, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ NB in Pakistan --

"I hope I succeed in posting this on the blog, I tried it early in the morning but failed. Despite subscribing to 3 ISPs, I have connectivity problems."

Thank God, you are posted.

I think that the SD guys do a perfect job no matter the difficulties.

I have added to "favorites" our Blog, months ago.

It is strange, but, the last days, when I attempt to visit the site, the "navigation" of the browser is also "strange." DipNote -- the requested Blog upon first hit -- does not "appear". Always, something else comes up as a requested site. But not our Blog.

(Maybe we have bugs, moreover, religion ones. However, I am not paranoid), yet...

So, I have to go through the state.gov -- hit the DipNote banner etc...

The good think is that still works anyway. I'm posted like you.

Nevertheless, if some guys do not like our discussions, they better understand that we love it so much...

America loves democracy, Freedom and "public speaking."

Even if the internet does not work at all someday in the future, we will use birds (doves), but, we will keep on believing in Freedom and the exchanging of ideas to make the world better.

NB, I do not know what happens there -- Pakistan -- and what exactly is your political thesis, but keep on posting and keep in mind that the SD gives us a real Forum (with an F) for debating.

Don't let anything stop you from writing.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 22, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

@ State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack -- Greetings.

As a follow-up to my previous posting there were protests against non-availability of wheat flour in seven towns. According to a newspaper the worst crisis of non-availability was in Noshero Feroz in Northern part of Sindh. The protests all over were civilized and limited to carrying banners and walking around the town and ending up with a token hunger strike of two hours outside the respective press clubs.

There was a story about an Afghan smuggler who owns 8000 mules and uses these mules to smuggle out wheat flour. Harmless it may seem, but one wonders what else could these mules be carrying on their to & fro trips. If one lets one's imagination get carried away then, of course, one enters a state of shock.

Higher oil prices are also contributing towards rocketing sky-high overall inflation.

Best Regards.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 22, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

@ John in Greece -- Yeah, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got connected and had posted on the blog. Getting on to Dipnote is not a problem, it's the ISPs that either don't let you get connected to the internet or if you get connected, they cut you off just after a minute or so.

Yes John, SD does give us a real forum and let's us exchange ideas with freedom. Best Regards.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 22, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

@ David in USA -- I should have mentioned AM band and not a.m. band. I would also like to re-iterate that Radio School will not only help food problems it could also be used for education in other fields too.

Zharkov
|
United States
April 23, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Food shortages are always either an unintended or intended consequence of government policies. The Irish Potato Famine, and famine caused by Stalin's government, are examples of an intended consequence. Mao Tze Tung's famine in China is an example of an unintended consequence.

Today's food shortage is likely a consequence of free trade and the economic doctrine of comparative advantage. This doctrine provides that production of wheat in nations that produce wheat at lowest cost will benefit consumers world-wide, while production of shoes in other nations that can produce shoes more efficiently also benefits consumers, so that each nation should specialize in a basket of goods that it can produce at lowest cost.

The fallacy in this theory is that many nations can produce almost everything at lower cost, leaving the higher-cost producing nations importing everything and exporting nothing. Food shortages occur when high-cost producers quit producing. Without trade protection, they cannot sell food produce for less than the cost of production.

Just as oil flows to the highest bidder, food shipments are diverted to nations willing to pay the highest prices.

As more advanced nations reduce their high-cost production of food, they begin importing food from third-world nations, so there is less food available for third-world citizens.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the food shortage is intentional on the part of government officials who seek tighter control over population numbers. It is no longer secret that a small number of morons in high places believe the world population should be limited to 500 million people.

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
April 23, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Maybe you will print this one:

Hungry people don't care about human rights, politics, religion....nothing matters unless these people eat first...

Dont' mistake this as political, it's one example:
Congress paid out over 9 billion to farmers in the Texas area to NOT GROW crops as subsidies and the land sits or giving them to land sold with larger homes that have been built since who get the subsidies each year and aren't farmers....the plan was for the small farmer, but guess what happened.

I can't see why the government would create a shortage here while paying people not to grow crops; then purchase crops from people they are paying not to grow them to ship out in USAID...what the heck is that all about? How is taking from the poor here to feed the poor somewhere else realy helping long term? Its like robing Peter to pay Paul. Nothing realy changes until the system changes. To have more the system needs to be changed or adjusted to the needs.

We need to produce food here and world wide. We can do so and still maintain a capitalist system. An EQUAL one for ALL...so let it be said, let it be written, let it be done...It must be or we will have choas beyond our imagination.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 24, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

The government here is getting serious about handling wheat crisis. High level committee has been formed to control the matter. Let's hope it brings about good results.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 24, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- Someone has apparently found a solution to being hungry, and that is to simply blow yourself up...

Martyrdom would solve Iran's economic woes: Ahmadinejad
Thursday, 24 April 2008
TEHRAN (AFP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the country's economic woes can be solved by the "culture of martyrdom, the Mehr news agency reported.

"If we want to build the country, maintain our dignity and solve economic problems, we need the culture of martyrdom," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a speech on Wednesday in the western city of Hamedan.

He described martyrdom, dying or being killed for one's religious beliefs, as "a quick and shortcut way to reach the summit of salvation."

He did not say how becoming a martyr would help the economy, which is struggling from high inflation.

---end excerpt from news item---

You were talking about government subsidies....what about those governments that subsidize the conflicts that create poverty, famine, mass migrations of peoples and disease?

There's the root cause.

NB
|
Pakistan
April 24, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

The new government is Pakistan is serious about not letting the food problem get out of hand. Immediate import of 1.5 million tons of wheat has been sanctioned despite the harvesting season not being over yet. I would call this foreseeing the problem areas much in advance. The government has sanctioned import of a total of 5 million tons of wheat for this year. With such planning going on, hopefully there won't be any food shortage crisis.

.

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