Food for Thought: Price Inflation Protests Go Global

While we are bombarded by pleas for pocket change from numerous charities striving to solve world hunger, global famine is reaching unprecedented levels. Food prices have soared by 55 percent since June 2007, making it increasingly difficult for the United Nations’ World Food Programme to continue to uphold its commitments from the previous year.
This year, the WFP acquired 40 percent less food than last year, despite the fact that the amount of contributions remained constant. The failure of the WFP highlights the fallibility of the system, as over 100 million people subsist on only 50 cents per day. Since this sum cannot purchase a bowl of rice in the context of global inflation, these people are teetering on the edge of survival.
For the first time in 30 years, protesters have united against the food crisis across national lines. What is the solution when our most trusted agencies are running a race they can’t seem to win?
The factors in the food crisis range from export bans in agriculturally-rich nations like India to rises in the prices of oil. However, the most controversial – and most reasonable – explanation for the crisis is that the prices of food will not drop to pre-crisis levels—and this is desirable.
Due to government subsidies in agricultural sectors, the prices of food have fallen significantly short of the costs of cultivation for years. Additionally, even in the midst of the pandemic starvation, the food supply has not been scarce; in fact, there has been an agricultural surplus.
The use of surplus crops in the production of biofuels, a growing alternative energy source, may have helped re-create the balance between the costs of cultivation and the prices of food, which had been set too low by government subsidies.
Also, the influx of subsidies for the production of biofuels may have chipped away at agricultural subsidies. Today’s agricultural system has fewer subsidies and less government intervention, which is the most fruitful setting for both farmers and consumers.
How can the consumer be satisfied by one of the leading causes of the food inflation crisis? Thanks to subsidies, consumers were accustomed to buying food at below cultivation costs at the expense of the faltering farming community.
The inflation is re-establishing the equilibrium in the price of food. In order to arrive at this equilibrium, the international community needs a global “new deal,” with new social programs to motivate the work-and-get-money ethic.
These programs could increase individual incomes and pave the way for bustling, though primitive, economies. At the very least, they could introduce elementary farming technologies and more advanced approaches to profitable cultivation.
Although this “new deal” may be too expensive and idealistic, self-profitability may be the only solution for adapting to the fairest setting for food production. Therefore, it is up to the victims to actively fight world hunger rather than passively receiving the food that is given to them.

Anabela Kim is a third-year film and media studies major. She can be reached at anabelak@uci.edu.