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Monday, 2nd June 2008

Resources of the Week -- Keeping Tabs on the Global Food Crisis

Resources of the Week -- Keeping Tabs on the Global Food Crisis
By Shirl Kennedy, Senior Editor

While we're also digging deeper into our pockets every time we pull up to the gas pump, a trip to the supermarket has also become a walk on the wild side -- pricewise, that is. But those of us here in the U.S. and other industrialized nations at least have the luxury of...cutting back on luxuries to keep up with the ever-growing cost of basic commodities. We can unsubscribe from the premium cable channels, brown-bag it to work, take our vacations a little closer to home this year...

But in developing nations, the average person...well, has fewer options. Food has become downright unaffordable -- and/or in extremely short supply. So lots of people are becoming more desperate with each passing day. Which, of course, increases the general level of instability in the world.

This week, we offer you a selection of sites you can visit to keep tabs on the world food situation. And don't forget to check the Food and Agriculture category over on our sister site, DocuTicker, for the latest reports from think thanks, government agencies, NGOs, etc.

+ Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture
"Established in the wake of the world food crisis of the early 1970s, the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) remains the leading source of information on food production and food security for every country in the world, whether or not it is an FAO member. In the past 25 years, the system has become a worldwide network which includes 115 governments, 61 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and numerous trade, research and media organizations. Over the years, a unique database on global, regional, national and subnational food security has been maintained, refined and continuously updated. GIEWS has invested in innovative methods for collecting, analysing, presenting and disseminating information, making full use of the revolution in information technology and the advent of computer communications. The System supports national- and regional-level initiatives to enhance food information and early warning systems.

"In a period when the number of food emergencies has been growing, GIEWS continues to provide policy-makers and relief agencies throughout the world with the most up-to-date and accurate information available."

Offers mailing lists by continent and an RSS feed.

See also: United Nations Secretary-General's Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis

+ U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: Factors in Food Commodity Price Increases
"The recent runup in global food commodity prices reflects both long-term trends and short-term events. Slower long-term growth in global crop production and more rapid growth in demand have tightened world balances of grains and oilseeds. In addition, about 5 years ago, global production of ethanol and biodiesel began to add to the demand for grains and oilseeds. Other factors that have put upward pressure on prices include the declining value of the U.S. dollar, rising energy prices, increasing agricultural costs of production, adverse weather conditions in 2006 and 2007 and, most recently, steps taken by some countries to curb their food exports to mitigate their own food price inflation."

Selection of articles, reports, webcasts.

+ U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: Briefing Room -- Global Food Security
"Worldwide, some 1 billion people in 70 lower income countries are hungry, and the situation could grow worse in the poorest countries. Ironically, most of these people live in rural areas where food is produced. But food availability does not guarantee food security, which depends also on the ability to buy food and to utilize it effectively. Individual health and education levels, as well as local conditions such as safety of the water supply, affect the ability to utilize food effectively."

Offers reports, feature articles, data, an FAQ and links to related resources.

+ International Food Policy Research Institute
"The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations."

News updates, datasets, reports, press release newsfeed.

+ ReliefWeb: Global Food Crisis
"income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are transforming the world food situation (International Food Policy Research Institute - IFPRI). Food prices are rising (some have more than doubled) affecting not only the world’s poor, but also communities that had so far been food-secure. "That's the new face of hunger, people who suddenly can no longer afford the food they see on store shelves because prices have soared beyond their reach" (World Food Programme - WFP).

"Rising prices also hamper those in need of humanitarian assistance. WFP issued an emergency appeal to reach the people it originally planned to assist this year. According to WFP, an estimated 854 million people are food insecure. High food prices are believed to remain high, intensifying concerns about food security and risking a "major setback" in the accomplishment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (WFP)."

Updates, maps, related resources, data, key documents, FAQ.

+ USAID: Global Food Insecurity and Price Increase Updates
At present, 37 countries throughout every region of the world are experiencing localized food insecurity, lack of access to food, or shortfalls in food production or supplies. In the past year, global food prices have increased an average of 43 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. On April 14, the World Bank estimated that the doubling of food prices during the past three years could potentially push 100 million people throughout the world into extreme poverty.

Approximately 1 billion people -- or nearly one-sixth of the world's population -- subsist on less than $1 per day. Of this population, 162 million survive on less than $0.50 per day. At the household level, increasing food prices have the greatest effect on poor and food-insecure populations, who spend 50 to 60 percent or more of their income on food, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Overall, increased food prices particularly affect the poorest people within developing countries. Among the populations affected by current food insecurity and price increase are people in Haiti and Tajikistan.

+ WashingtonPost.com: Global Food Crisis
Feature article series, graphics, news updates, links to related resources.

+ World Bank: Food Price Crisis
News, multimedia, regional information

+ Congressional Research Service report
Rising Food Prices and Global Food Needs: The U.S. Response


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