Sudden spikes in global food prices to 'become the norm'

 

A A A

Food price spikes caused by extreme weather events like the
US drought will become the norm over the next twenty years, leading to millions
of deaths from malnutrition among the world’s poorest if Governments do not act
on climate change, Oxfam has warned.

While the average price of staple foods is already expected to double in the next twenty years, the UK’s leading poverty charity predicts that separate catastrophes such as droughts, floods and bad harvests will also become more common as a result of climate change, leading to regular and dramatic jumps in prices.

The effect may have already been seen this year, the charity says. A 10 per cent rise in world food prices in July has been blamed on the severest drought in the USA in fifty years, along with dry weather in Eastern Europe and Kenya. Oxfam warned that policymakers have “underestimated” the full impact of climate change on future food prices.

“The huge potential impact of extreme weather events of future food prices is missing from today’s climate change debate,” said the charity’s climate change policy advisor Tim Gore. “Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns hold back crop production and cause steady prices rises. But extreme weather events – like the current US drought – can wipe out entire harvests and trigger dramatic food price spikes.”

July was the USA’s hottest month on record, contributing to the warmest 12 month period for the country since records began. Widespread drought has destroyed one sixth of the country’s corn crop and driven up staple food prices worldwide.

Oxfam predicted that future weather events on a similar scale, such as a flood in southern Africa or another drought in North America, could have a catastrophic impact on food prices within the next twenty years. Financial modelling suggested that one or more extreme events in a single year could cause two decades worth of price inflation to occur in a matter of months.

Yesterday the United Nations urged “swift, co-ordinated international action” to combat the current price spike, which has seen corn and wheat prices soar by 25 per cent, warning that “even in a good year, global grain production is barely sufficient to meet growing demands for food, feed and fuel.”

Policymakers will wish to avoid a repeat of the food crisis of 2008, in which the rising cost of grain, maize, rice and soya led to social unrest and riots in many parts of Africa, South America and Asia. New UN task forces were set up in the wake of the 2008 crisis to co-ordinate the trade, production and aid policies of the world’s governments in the event of another price spike.

In a joint statement, three UN food agencies called on governments to take long term steps such as investing in agriculture in food importing countries, to safeguard them against future price shocks.

The statement from the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said that weather had been the driver of each three international food spikes in the past five years.

“Until we find the way to shock-proof and climate-proof our food system, the danger will remain,” the statement said.

The UN statement stopped short of calling an emergency meeting of the Rapid Response Forum, set up in the wake of 2008 crisis. Oxfam said that world leaders were “dragging their feet” and that failure to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions “made a future crisis more likely.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project