Shortages in major producing nations, export quotas and a shift to more-profitable crops are all pushing up the price of key food commodities – and that's raised the cost of importing food for nations around the world. The consequences, warns the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, could be severe.
The global food import bill will rise above $1 trillion, to $1.026 trillion in 2010; the all-time record, reports the Financial Times, was set in 2008, during a global food crisis, at $1.031 trillion.
Rising grain futures have presaged the surge in costs – the prices of corn, wheat, soy, and meat have all been on an upward trend. The ability of farmers to increase production is hampered, moreover, by a shift to crops with even higher margins, like sugar and cotton.
"This could limit individual crop production responses to levels that would be insufficient to alleviate market tightness. Against this backdrop, consumers may have little choice but to pay higher prices for their food," the FAO wrote in a report.
The organization doesn't yet predict that the situation will be as bad as it was two to three years ago; for one thing, nations have built up stronger reserves of food. But as China moves to become a net importer, rather than exporter, of food commodities, the situation is likely to grow tenser.
Already, the world's biggest country has moved to cap the price of food.
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