Opinion

Food deficit

J. Srinivasan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 16, 2012

With the mercury, World Bank's food price index has reached fever pitch.

In the din around the infernal corruption, a key World Bank announcement went by barely noticed: Drought conditions are sweeping the US and Europe. The implication for food price is such that the Bank called it the coming price catastrophe! 

With the mercury, World Bank's food price index has reached fever pitch. The resultant drought in the US has pushed up maize price 25 per cent and soyabean 17 per cent. Compounding the trouble, a dry northern summer in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan has sent wheat soaring 25 per cent.

India moves at the pace of an elephant so it is no surprise that the country wakes up to any thing, including a drought, quite late. Now, it seems the US and others too have dozed off. For, a quick Google search shows that it was known all along that a drought was coming. Expertspeak goes thus: The “Palmer Drought Severity Index (a popular measure), when applied to climate models prepared for the 4th IPCC report, suggests increasingly widespread drought due to global warming”.

Just this is enough, actual droughts need not happen, for countries to stock up on foodgrain in panic and/or impose export curbs. Then, investment houses agree to buy or sell ‘goods’ in future depending on how they think prices will move. This quickly turns a problem into a catastrophe. The impact of food price shocks can only be appreciated by countries that rely on imports, as also by aid providers. For instance, according to the World Food Programme, for every 10 per cent increase in the price of its food basket, it has to find an extra $200 million a year for food assistance.

Besides the various steps to improve farming techniques and acreage, most UN organisations and the World Bank suggest stopping diversion of food for alternative uses such as biofuel. But what may really help is curbing speculation in food items. This will require keeping a close watch on investment funds.

The fit of the trouser depends on the bulge — at the waist and in the pocket. Going by the latest World Bank food forecast, your trouser could fit perfectly but you may have little at the waist or nothing in the purse to cause the bulge in the pocket. Worse, far from fitting at all, the trouser could well drop off!

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Published on October 16, 2012
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