If you’ve taken a trip to the supermarket lately
or scanned the headlines you may have noticed something: Food prices are on the rise. Worldwide, food prices are on track to reach their highest point since their peak in 2008. Using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the World Bank, the Environmental Working Group
(EWG) and ActionAid
have collaborated to create an interactive world map called, “Hot Spots in the Emerging Global Food Crisis
The focus of the map is to highlight the 52 most at-risk countries where increases in staple food prices could tip the scales of stability. There are three variants of the map to choose from: countries at risk which depend on imported cereals, countries where prices are already increasing (featured above), and countries with vulnerable economies and high rates of hunger.
Food prices have become a hot topic of conversation lately for their alleged role in the instability that is rocking the Middle East/North Africa region. But the Middle East is not the only area affected: Besides in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, food-related riots and protests have also broken out in Mozambique, Bolivia, and India. As the map’s accompanying text puts it, these food riots “feed deeper discontent about economic inequalities and hunger and help give rise to revolutions that can topple governments, as in Tunisia and Egypt.”
Scrolling over a country reveals more information, like, for example, the specific percentage increases in the price of wheat or rice over the past year (wheat prices have risen 15.9 percent in China vs. 54 percent in Kyrgyzstan) or the amounts of corn, soybean, and wheat annually imported and exported (Afghanistan exported 908 million metric tons of wheat in 2010 while Egypt imported 4,978).
Users can also click on vulnerable countries to see how many people are malnourished and their per capita income per day. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, an estimated 42 million people were undernourished between 2005 and 2007, and the average person lives on $0.28 per day. According to EWG and ActionAid, the total number of people living in extreme poverty rose by 25 million in 2008 during the last global food crisis. Since June 2010, the start of the current upward trend in prices, the World Bank estimates that 44 million people have fallen into extreme poverty.
One recommendation from EWG and ActionAid for developed countries and the United States in particular: Stop looking to biofuels as an energy option. In their view, “spending scarce taxpayer dollars to shift crops from food to biofuels at the expense of hungry people and already stressed resources like soil, water, and air is unsustainable.”
Image Credit: Map courtesy of the Environmental Working Group and ActionAid, and Food Price Index and Food Commodity Indices, extracted from Global Food Price Monitor, January 2011, courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Sources: ActionAid International, BBC News, CNN, the Environmental Working Group, The European Union Times, Time, Voice of America, World Bank.