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Message Subject THE ECONOMY & YOU # (Daily Updated Videos & Articles)
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Spiking Grain Prices Raise Specter Of Global Food Crisis
by Naomi Spencer
August 10, 2012

Global food prices rose 6.2 percent in July, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reported Thursday. The FAO said it released its Food Price Index ahead of its regular publication schedule as a warning against the impact of such price rises.

The index, which calculates the cost of a basket of food commodities, overall averaged 213 points in July, up 12 points from June. In February 2011, the height of the Arab Spring, the overall index peaked at 238. The index has remained above the average 2008 level for more than a year and is now trending toward an all-time high.

Grain prices have driven the overall rise. The US corn crop is in a state of disaster, with more than half of all US acreage listed in poor or very poor condition due to a record-breaking drought. Under a parallel drought, Russia downgraded its wheat crop by several million tons on Wednesday.

The FAO cereal index averaged 260 points in July, up 17 percent over the month. Most of the increase is attributable to a 23 percent rise in corn prices over the month and a similar, 19 percent surge in wheat prices. The cereal index is only 14 points below the all-time high of 274 points in April 2008.

The FAO registered a 12 percent rise in sugar prices in July, triggered by unseasonably wet weather in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of cane sugar. Oils rose 2 percent, primarily on tighter supply outlooks and record prices for soybeans.

Price indexes for meats and dairy remained relatively unchanged for the month, although the protracted drought in the US rangeland has distressed many ranchers, who will be compelled to liquidate their herds. The US Department of Agriculture projects US consumer price inflation for meat, poultry, and dairy in the next few months as a result. Internationally, the higher cost of animal feed will ripple through livestock producers. This process may sharply affect Asia, where demand for meat is growing, but nations have smaller domestic stockpiles.

International food organization Oxfam warned in response to the FAO report that “millions of the world’s poorest will face devastation” from the increases. “This is not some gentle monthly wake-up call—it’s the same global alarm that’s been screaming at us since 2008,” Oxfam spokesman Colin Roche stated. “These figures prove that the world’s food system cannot cope on crumbling foundations. The combination of rising prices and expected low reserves means the world is facing a double danger.”

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