February 24, 2008
FOOD SHORTAGES LOOM AS WHEAT CROP SHRINKS
AND PRICES RISE
The world is only ten weeks away from running
out of wheat supplies after stocks fell to their lowest levels for 50 years.
The crisis has pushed prices to an all-time
high and could lead to further hikes in the price of bread, beer, biscuits and other basic foods.
It could also exacerbate serious food shortages
in developing countries especially in Africa.
The crisis comes after two successive years
of disastrous wheat harvests, which saw production fall from 624m to 600m tonnes, according to the United Nations’ Food
and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Experts blame climate change
as heatwaves caused a slump in harvests last year in eastern Europe, Canada,
Morocco and Australia,
all big wheat producers.
Booming populations and a switch to a meat-rich
diet in the developing world also mean that about 110m tons of the world’s annual wheat crop is being diverted to feed
Short term pressures have compounded the problem.
Speculative buying by investors gambling on further price rises has further pushed up prices.
Though shortages are often blamed on the use
of land for biofuel crops, the main biofuel cereal crop is maize, not wheat. Farmers have brought millions of acres of fallow
land into production and the FAO predicts that the shortages could be eliminated within 12 months.