The police in Haiti struggled Wednesday to control looting and rioting over high food prices as President René Préval issued a sharp call for an end to the chaos. “The solution is not to go around destroying stores,” Mr. Préval said in a national address. “I’m giving you orders to stop.” In the speech, his first public comments on the issue since protests began last week, he urged Haiti’s Congress to cut taxes on imported food. Meanwhile, looters emptied stores, warehouses and government offices and burned tires in Port-au-Prince, the capital. Most Haitians survive on less than $2 a day, and rioters say the prices of staples have spiraled so high that most people are going hungry.
It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. There is a massive re-adjustment that needs to take place regarding the world’s food supply, and this is the gist of it….
The U.N. World Food Program’s executive director told the Los Angeles Times that “a perfect storm” is hitting the world’s hungry, as demand for aid surges while food prices skyrocket. Cost increases are affecting most countries around the globe, with prices for dairy products up 80 percent, cooking oils up 50 percent, and grains up 42 percent from 2006 to 2007. (For more specifics on how prices have changed since 2000, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has a handy chart.) Why are groceries getting so expensive all at once?
Energy prices. The global food system is heavily dependent on petroleum, not just for shipping goods from one location to another but also for production, packaging, and processing. As the price of oil rises—crude oil is currently hovering at around $100 a barrel—so do the costs of planting, harvesting, and delivering food.
High oil prices have also created a secondary problem: The burgeoning interest in biofuels. In 2006, 14 percent of the total corn crop in the United States was converted into ethanol; by 2010, that figure will rise to 30 percent.
And so you can see how the U.S. invasion of one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil and constant threats of sanctions against another have repercussions that go far beyond the basic need of chickenhawks to feel powerful by advocating blasting brown people to bits.