Saturday, April 26, 2008

Global Famine Warning?

A few weeks back, "The Hindu" reported a UN warning about wheat shortage in the world and trends in increasing wheat prices. That time, I had spoken about this with a few friends. My prediction was that Africa would be the most hit with developed nations deciding to consume grains themselves. My view point was very limited and I had made the statement without much understanding. Japan, US are all "net importers" of wheat and rice and a shortage warning is already in place there. Major shopping outlets are now "rationing" rice and wheat there. Personally, I did not think this would happen so soon. Economically, it would have been a rude awakening to US, Japan, and possibly several developed nations in the world. Several exporting countries have decided to become "consuming silos" in the wake of this and have either
stopped exporting or reduced exports (for example India, Pakistan, Kazhakastan) and
the outcomes are mixed and unpredictable because the transportation and consumption channels are vast and complex. In this situation, apparently, money is not the key. I also fear it is way (way way) too late to do anything about this. The world population is not going to reverse
itself overnight. This may or may not be a temporary phenomenon, but there would be
other implications that will begin to show up as we continue to treat (and as repercussions of the way we have treated) a finite planet as if it were an unlimited supply engine. Our past history shows we do not know to handle situations like this gracefully, but I hope we do.

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