Food Geopolitics: 2013 Predicted to be a Year of Serious Global Food Crisis
Food Price Index for Auguts holds steady and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva says “This is reassuring, and that “current prices
do not justify talk of a world food crisis.” We are yet to see any measures
world governments are taking to calm the markets
Global prices for Maize and wheat already jumped up by 25 per cent each and the price for soya bean by 17 per cent. This is attributed to what is happening in the main grain producer’s geographies. Almost 80% of continental United States experienced drought conditions. Russia and Australia have also experienced drought conditions. Closer home, in the Rift Valley region, Kenya’s food basket, last month’s outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis is feared to have reduced the expected Maize yields. A shortage of maize will drive the prices through the roof and may spark protests as recently witnessed with the “Unga Revolution”.
Already the three top Rome-based UN food agencies, FAO, WFP and IFAD have released a joint statement on how to tackle the high food prices and hunger.
At the world stage, the main talk is on the so-called “Food verses Feed” debate though. This affects developing countries, Kenya included, because we are still net food importers. Reduced food production means restrictions on exports. “When grain prices spiked in 2007-2008, bread-riots shook 30 countries across the developing world, from Haiti to Bangladesh, according to the Financial Times. A drought in Russia in 2010 forced suspension of Russian grain exports that year and set in motion the so-called Arab spring.”
This brings me to a term I am calling “Food Geopolitics”. Geopolitics is basically the interrelations of politics and geography. My new term “Food Geopolitics” is the interrelations of food, politics and geography.
There is limited land available for agriculture and using this land to grow crops for feed or fuel industry is a threat to food security. A notable case is the US use of more corn for and soybean for motor fuel. The food versus fuel debate has seen legislators at loggerheads demanding for policy regulations. Biofuels continue to be an important component of America’s clean energy strategy and the efforts to forestall it seem fruitless.
If we can translate this to Kenya, the talk taking the rounds is about how we export love while our people starve. The thriving flower industry is using irrigation water to grow flowers for export and large-scale farmers grow cash crops for exports. We are left to buy food from our neighboring countries because our small-scale farmers can’t keep up with the demands.
Maybe our legislators need to formulate policies that put restrictions on what is produced for export to boost production for local consumption. If no practical measures are taken, the person elected president in the March 2013 elections will have to deal with the crisis of both food shortages and price spikes. We do not want to go back to the 2007-2008 food crisis.
Sources: FAO, CNN