Jeffrey Sachs: How to End the Global Food Shortage

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The world economy has run into a brick wall. Despite countless warnings in recent years about the need to address a looming hunger crisis in poor countries and a looming energy crisis worldwide, world leaders failed to think ahead. The result is a global food crisis. Wheat, corn and rice prices have more than doubled in the past two years, and oil prices have more than tripled since the start of 2004. These food-price increases combined with soaring energy costs will slow if not stop economic growth in many parts of the world and will even undermine political stability, as evidenced by the protest riots that have erupted in places like Haiti, Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. Practical solutions to these growing woes do exist, but we'll have to start thinking ahead and acting globally.

The crisis has its roots in four interlinked trends. The first is the chronically low productivity of farmers in the poorest countries, caused by their inability to pay for seeds, fertilizers and irrigation. The second is the misguided policy in the U.S. and Europe of subsidizing the diversion of food crops to produce biofuels like corn-based ethanol. The third is climate change; take the recent droughts in Australia and Europe, which cut the global production of grain in 2005 and '06. The fourth is the growing global demand for food and feed grains brought on by swelling populations and incomes. In short, rising demand has hit a limited supply, with the poor taking the hardest blow.

So, what should be done? Here are three steps to ease the current crisis and avert the potential for a global disaster.,9171,1734834,00.html

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural Resources

Posted April 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Scott K wrote:

Is there a link to the whole article?

April 28, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
2. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

#1. Read it here:,9171,1734834,00.html

April 28, 12:23 pm | [comment link]
3. NWOhio Anglican wrote:

Here it is.

April 28, 12:23 pm | [comment link]
4. In Texas wrote:

We have had droughts before w/o the “climate change” scare.  There is no steady “average”, now any variation in weather from the “average” is “climate change”.  What do you think is going to happen to poor people when the cost for the carbon tax hits the US consumer.  I’m already paying $30/week more at the grocery store than I was just 5 months ago.  Once the carbon tax hits in the next 2 - 5 years, I expect food to be $50 to $60 more per week.  Energy costs affect everything.

April 28, 12:51 pm | [comment link]
5. evan miller wrote:

The poorest nations will never be able to feed themselves if the developed nations, World Food Program, ets., don’t stop massive food aid to them.  What poor farmer can compete with essentially free food from abroad, or food aid delivered to corrupt governments that then dole it out to cronies to sell, again for less than indiginous farmers could produce it for a living wage.  Well meaning western aid has crippled agriculture in the third world, abetted and encouraged by corrupt governments and the entrenched international aid bureaucracies.

April 28, 1:42 pm | [comment link]
6. David Fischler wrote:

Sachs is barking up the wrong tree on climate change, but his suggestions strike me as both very sound and aimed at the right targets—the unnecessary subsidization and use of biofuels, and helping local farmers in the Third World do a better job of raising food so it doesn’t have to be imported.

April 28, 2:53 pm | [comment link]
7. Bill Matz wrote:

NYT article today reported pending record wheat harvest and dropping prices, but it noted a major problem with distribution/trade channels.

April 29, 12:39 am | [comment link]
8. Irenaeus wrote:

I agree with David Fischler [#6] that Sachs’ three proposals seem “both very sound and aimed at the right targets.”

April 29, 1:46 am | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Forward in Faith U.K.—Manchester Report - first reaction

Previous entry (below): Bob Herbert: Clueless in America

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)