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"The Truth about Food"

"The Truth about Food"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Prospect, issue 147

June 2008

Author: Robert Paarlberg, Former Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Science, Technology, and Globalization; Science, Technology, and Public Policy



This article was reprinted as "Real Food Crisis is Not about Prices" in Business Day on June 21, 2008.


"As everyone knows, the price of many basic foodstuffs has surged in the past half year. Rice tripled in price over just the first four months of 2008, wheat doubled and corn rose 46 per cent. The New York Times has dubbed this a "world food crisis" and the Economist called it a "silent tsunami." High grain import prices, on top of high fuel prices, place an acute economic squeeze on urban consumers in developing countries that depend heavily on the world market. In Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia, the urban poor have been taking to the streets.

Yet it is a mistake to see high prices as a proxy for actual hunger. Most of the world's hungry citizens do not get their food from the world market, and most who rely on the world market are not poor or vulnerable to hunger.

In south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, hunger levels are twice as high as in the developing countries of east Asia and four times as high as in Latin America. Yet these two hungry regions import very little food from the world market. The countries of sub-Saharan Africa take only 16 per cent of their total grain consumption from the world market, and less than 10 per cent of total calorie consumption. The..."

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For Academic Citation:

Paarlberg, Robert. "The Truth about Food." Prospect, June 2008.

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