Rice so valuable it is transported in armored convoys. Soldiers guarding fields and warehouses. Export bans to keep local populations from starving.
For the first time in decades, the specter of widespread hunger for millions looms as food prices explode. Two words not in common currency in recent years — famine and starvation — are now being raised as distinct possibilities in the poorest, food-importing countries.
A swelling global population, soaring energy prices, the clamoring for meat from the rising Asian middle class, competition from biofuels and hot money pouring into the commodity markets are all factors that make this crisis unique and potentially calamitous. Unlike past food crises, solved largely by throwing aid at hungry stomachs and boosting agricultural productivity, this one won't go away quickly, experts say. Prices are soaring and stand every chance of staying high.
Peter Hazell, a British agriculture economist and a former World Bank principal economist, says millions may go hungry simply because food is becoming unaffordable in some parts of the world.
[Excerpt of an article by Eric Reguly, Globe and Mail]