Unemployment on the rise... a total disconnect between the people and those they have selected to rule over them... it seems as though just the slightest rattle to the day to ay existence might be enough to start sparking the volatile powder keg that is the United States...
And here it is:
The world's governments (including the United States) are bracing itself for a global food shortage that the experts believe with effect every corner of the Earth...
Strained by rising demand and battered by bad weather, the global food supply chain is stretched to the limit, sending prices soaring and sparking concerns about a repeat of food riots last seen three years ago.
Signs of the strain can be found from Australia to Argentina, Canada to Russia.
"We are entering a danger territory," Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said last week.
The U.N.'s fear is that the latest run-up in food prices could spark a repeat of the deadly food riots that broke out in 2008 in Haiti, Kenya and Somalia. That price spike was relatively short-lived. But Abbassian said the latest surge in food stuffs may be more sustained.
"Situations have changed. The supply/demand structures have changed,” Abbassian told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last week. "Certainly the kind of weather developments we have seen makes us worry a little bit more that it may last much, much longer. Are we prepared for it? Really this is the question."
S-T-A-R-V-E in the USA...
While the affects of previous global food shortages have gone by without the Americans ever knowing their effects, many experts- both foreign and domestic- openly think that this current food crisis will have its sting felt in every American kitchen.
Prices rose again this week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut back its already-tight estimate of grain inventories. Estimated reserves of corn were cut to about half the level in storage at the start of the 2010 harvest; soybean reserves are at the lowest levels in three decades, the USDA estimates, in part because of heavy buying by China. The ratio of stocks to demand is expected to fall later this year to "levels unseen since the mid-1970s," the agency said.
"I haven't seen numbers this low that I can remember in the last 20 or 30 years," said Dennis Conley, an agricultural economist at the University of Nebraska. "We are at record low stocks. So if there any kind of glitch at all in the U.S. weather, supplies are going to remain tighter and we might see even higher prices."
Increases in the demand for grains on the global market (due to our ever growing global population) as well as a hyper inflating of the price of grain on the world's markets are thought to be the main culprits behind the skyrocketing price of available grains.
Price for grains and other farm products began rising last fall after poor harvests in Canada, Russia and Ukraine tightened global supplies. More recently, hot, dry weather in South America has cut production in Argentina, a major soybean exporter. This month's flooding in Australia wiped out much of that country's wheat crop.
As supplies tighten, prices surge. Earlier this month, the FAO said its food price index jumped 32 percent in the second half of 2010, soaring past the previous record set in 2008.
Higher oil prices are also pushing up the cost of food — in two ways. First, the added shipping cost raises the delivered price of agricultural products. Higher oil prices also divert more crops like corn and soybeans to biofuel production, further tightening supplies for livestock feed and human consumption. Conley estimates that more than a third of the corn produced in the U.S is now used to make ethanol.
Despite tightening supplies, the rise in food prices has been much tamer in the developed world. On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that food prices at the consumer level rose just one-tenth of one percent. On Thursday, the government reported that the food component of the Producer Price Index rose just 0.8 percent in December. For all of 2010, food prices at the producer level rose 3.5 percent.
Food price spikes hit less-developed countries much harder because a greater share of per capita income — half or more — goes to pay for food. U.S. consumers, on the other hand, spend an average of about 13 percent of disposable income on food.
The impact of higher prices is blunted somewhat in countries that subsidize food to stabilize costs, but the trend in prices may make those subsidies unsustainable. Last month, Iran deployed squads of riot police to maintain order after slashing subsidies for food and gasoline. In September, 13 people were killed in street fighting in Mozambique after the government cut subsidies it could no longer afford, sparking a 30 percent rise in bread prices. On Friday, the president of Tunisia and his government fled the nation as food shortages and economic stagnation finally drove the people to rebellion.
But it's not all doom and gloom that has the world's sphincter all in a pucker over the idea of coming forced food rations...
Though strong global demand and tight supplies are bringing misery to some poor countries, the price surge is a sign of improving conditions in emerging economies. That’s because increased demand is caused in part to rapidly rising standards of living, according to David Malpass, president of economic research firm Encima Global.
"Some of the gains in prices in Brazil and India are because people are better off," he said "So we have to expect some inflation in those countries as people earn more and more per year."
So there you have it...
Be it by the invisible hand of Adam Smith "spreading the global wealth around" or the boney hand of Fate touching the damned flesh of mortals, there is a coming food shortage to our world.
Do with that knowledge what you will...