Breaking down the issues.  I have a piece in today’s Financial Times looking at the causes and consequences of high global food prices. For those interested in some background, the China aspects of the article draw on some of the research cited in this earlier post. The details on rising food prices are covered in both the first chapter of the IMF’s September 2007 World Economic Outlook and the opening chapter of the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects 2008. The vulnerability of the world’s poorest people and economies to higher food prices is highlighted in this report produced by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. — Mark Thirlwell, The Inquiring Mind

The poor to suffer. 20 percent of American households live on less than $10,000 per year, and these people use 32 percent of their income on food. The next income quintile lives on about $26,000 a year, and these households use about 17 percent of their income on food. A doubling in food prices over three years is not small potatoes for people who live with small margins. — Lene Johansen

Is it an opportunity? The Economist has been paying more attention to this issue than many other media outlets. And while it recognises that short-term hardship for the world’s poor — “over a billion urban consumers” — is likely, it suggests that over the long-term the rise in food prices will provide the world with an opportunity to restructure food production so that subsidies to rich country farmers are eliminated and farmers in poor countries are assisted. High food prices, says the Economist , have the potential to reduce global inequality. This free trade prescription is attractive in its own right, yet many political obstacles remain before this optimistic future can be realised. In other words, the poorest billion will wage a daily struggle with rapidly rising food prices while diplomats debate trade agreements which may take years to complete. The Economist may see a silver lining, but I’m afraid I don’t. — Tofu Notes

The price of chips. It’s amazing how much a little thing can get marked up. I saw a 50g pack of chips in a vending machine at Whitfords Station today, priced at $2.00. Put another way, priced at $40.00 a kg. For fried potato. “Wargh!” I thought, “you could buy good-quality chocolate for less than that!” — Perth Penguinista

Freegans unfazed by food price rise. You might want to check out the video in this website that tells the story of a London ‘ Freegan‘ family who salvage food from supermarket dumpsters in a protest at the shocking amount of food discarded annually. Or you might not, depending on how interested you are in where your and other people’s food comes from. — frogblog

Peter Fray

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