The back story to the revolutionary overthrow of longstanding dictatorships in the Middle East is that the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, et al couldn’t afford even basic foods and weren’t going to stand for the elites hoarding all their countries’ resources any longer.
The U.S Dept. of Agriculture’s Outlook Forum suggests that syrocketing food prices will continue, with possibly disastrous consequences around the world. Adam Gordon analyzes the situation for Forbes:
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) annual “Outlook Forum” in Washington D.C., usually draws a polite trickle of insiders and commodities traders, but on February 24 the forum’s venue was overrun with 2,000 attendees.
At the event, USDA chief economist Joseph Glauber warned of record farm prices for corn, wheat, and soyabeans for 2011, and resulting US food inflation of at least 4% this year and next as prices work their way through the supply chain.
The world situation is more extreme: the USDA says global food prices rose 25% last year, and set a record in January as world grain inventories suffered an estimated 13% decline. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in January reported its food-price index was up 32% in the second half of 2010, surpassing the previous record of June 2008. The index, which tracks the prices of a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, has risen for six consecutive months.
In 2008, food shortages triggered riots across the world, from Haiti to Somalia. It’s no coincidence then that the tottering regimes of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and counting, which could have fallen anytime in the last 30 years have come under acute pressure now. As Mary Antoinette would have noted in 1789, when bread becomes a luxury, rulers should watch out…
[continues at Forbes]