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December 04, 2007 01:52PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2221347,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=business

Riots and hunger feared as demand for grain sends food costs soaring

· Expert to warn industry of threats to world supply
· Biofuels and Chinese boom put pressure on harvests

The risks of food riots and malnutrition will surge in the next two years as the global supply of grain comes under more pressure than at any time in 50 years, according to one of the world's leading agricultural researchers.

Recent pasta protests in Italy, tortilla rallies in Mexico and onion demonstrations in India are just the start of the social instability to come unless there is a fundamental shift to boost production of staple foods, Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, warned in an interview with the Guardian.

The growing appetite of China and other fast-developing nations has combined with the expansion of biofuel programmes in the United States and Europe to transform the global food situation.
After decades of expanding crop yields and falling food prices, the past year has seen a sharp rise in the cost of wheat, rice, corn, soya and dairy products.

"Demand is running away. The world has been consuming more than it produces for five years now. Stocks of grain - of rice, wheat and maize - are down at levels not seen since the early 80s," said von Braun, whose organisation is the world's largest alliance of agricultural researchers, economists, and policy experts.

So far, crises have been averted because states have eaten into national stocks, but this could be set to change because China, in particular, has run down its supplies................

................The forces pushing up food prices

1 Rising consumption: The appetite of fast-growing nations, such as China, is rising as economic booms cause a surge in demand for meat and dairy products

2 Competition from biofuels: The cars of the rich are now rivalling the bellies of the poor for corn, cane and edible oils

3 Climate change: Global warming is putting pressure on water needed to irrigate crops
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