Much of the United States has been suffering for months under drought conditions. The same has been true in key agricultural areas of Europe. The production of corn, soybeans and wheat is down dramatically worldwide, and the fears of hunger are escalating. Soaring corn, soybean, and wheat prices have caught the attention of governments around the world.
World food prices rose 10% in July, held steady in August and then climbed again by 1.4% September. A look at the rise in the price of crops most directly affected by the drought is even more disturbing. Corn prices, for instance, are up over 60% since June. Soybean prices are up by more than a third.
Most of the focus of concern regarding rising food prices is on the Third World. In the United States, families typically spend a relatively small portion of their income on food, and they have the capacity to absorb increases in food prices without feeling true pain. That is not true in the poorer nations of Africa and Asia where people often live on less than $2 a day and spend 50-70% of their income on food. Under these conditions, even a modest increase in food prices can mean disaster. In 2007-2008 similar declines in agricultural production and the rise in food prices that resulted triggered riots across the developing world.
But, this year for the first time in many decades a new front is opening in the war on hunger, one many, many miles from Sub-Saharan Africa or India. That front is in Europe.