Here in the New Zealand blogosphere (not to mention the media, more generally) this has been much talk of the rise in price of basic goods - cheese seems to excite the lefty bloggers I read the most.
In the developing world the same rise in commodity prices is being felt too, but with much greater consequences.
Paul Krugman writes:
The financial crisis gets most of the attention from the business press — but in terms of sheer human impact, the current food crisis may well be a bigger deal.
Governments across the developing world are scrambling to boost farm imports and restrict exports in an attempt to forestall rising food prices and social unrest.
The moves mark a rapid shift away from protecting farmers, who are generally the beneficiaries of food import tariffs, towards cushioning consumers from food shortages and rising prices.
But economists warned that such actions risked provoking an upward spiral in global food prices, which have already been pushed higher by rising demand from emerging markets like China and India and pressure on land from the growing production of bio-fuels.
What I don’t quite understand is why food prices have spiked so dramatically. Demand has been rising for a number of years; bio-fuels is a big thing, but how much bigger is it this year than a year or two ago? It can’t be speculation: that raises prices by inducing stockpiling, and stocks of wheat and rice are at or near record lows.
Important stuff. We need to figure this out.
We do. My understanding is that part of the reason for the spike is drought in several key producing areas. Even without this though, the rise in demand stemming from China and India means, as best as I can tell, that we are either in desperate need of a new Green Revolution or a major change in consumption patterns. Of course, for us in the developed world (or at least those of us not in poverty) price signals will do some of the job. But by then it may well be too late for the people whose starvation means little more to us than the time it takes to watch a 30 second news item.