Will the Food Riots of 2008 Return in 2011?

Remember the food riots of 2008, when violent protests over a sharp rise in food prices broke out from Bangladesh to Haiti?  Bad times, indeed. Well, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, food prices in 2011 are set to reach — or even exceed — 2008 levels.

From the Food and Agriculture Organization:

Food import bills for the world’s poorest countries are predicted to rise 11 percent in 2010 and by 20 percent for low-income food-deficit countries.

This means, by passing a trillion dollars, the global import food bill will likely rise to a level not seen since food prices peaked at record levels in 2008.


Price increases, seen for most agricultural commodities over the past six months, are the result of a combination of factors, especially unexpected supply shortfalls due to unfavourable weather events, policy responses by some of the exporting countries, and fluctuations in currency markets.

International prices could rise even more if production next year does not increase significantly – especially in maizesoybean, and wheat, FAO said in its report.

The weather is partly to blame. And it is not too much of a stretch to expect extreme weather events, like the massive floods that decimated Pakistan’s agricultural sector, to increase in intensity and frequency as climate change gets worse. Presumably, that means we should be prepared for more of these kinds of food price shocks in the future.