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What Fuels the Food Crisis?

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At this stage the global food crisis is more about food access than food shortage. Though food production is slowing as a result of drought in places such as Australia and Africa, using grains for purposes other than human consumption—such as feeding livestock and making fuel—is contributing to the rise in food staple prices around the world.

Natural disasters and rising oil prices also have a negative impact. Rising food prices have hit urban populations hard in the past year: rice prices have risen as much as 341 percent in Mogadishu, Somalia, while white maize has gone up 176 percent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (statistics from Famine Early Warning Systems Network [FEWSNET], July 2008).

For the one billion families living on less than $1 a day, the effects of rising costs are dangerous. If a family earning $1 a day currently spends 80 percent of that dollar on food, then a 36 percent increase in food prices would make it nearly impossible to provide the family with just one meal daily.

Even families earning $2 a day are being forced to choose between food and education for their children in a time when education is key to ending the cycle of poverty.

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