Across the world a crisis is unfolding at alarming speed. Climate change, increasing consumption and the dash for biofuels are causing food shortages and rocketing prices - sparking riots in cities from the Caribbean to the Far East. On Sunday Bangladesh saw worst riots for food when housands of textile workers protesting against soaring food prices clashed with the police and went on a rampage attacking vehicles and shops, prompting authorities to call in the military in the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital. Its another adverse effect was seen when, Haitian lawmakers dismissed the country’s prime minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, hoping to defuse widespread anger over rising food prices that led to days of deadly protests and looting. But violence flared again hours later yesterday in the capital, where a UN police officer was shot dead and a market was set afire.
In recent months, rising food costs have lead to violent protests in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries in the past month. In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to avoid the seizure of food from fields and warehouses.
The World Bank met here on Sunday faced with a mounting food price crisis. Policymakers of the development lender are due to discuss a massive “new deal” plan to reduce hunger announced earlier this month by bank president Robert Zoellick. Bank plans to give $10 million in emergency aid to Haiti as riots over surging food prices turned deadly.
Bangladesh food adviser Shawkat Ali recently said “hidden hunger” was on the rise and 25 lakh of the country’s estimated 144 million people remained completely out of “safety nets”. Analysts have warned of a “silent famine” in the country, where 40 percent of the 144 million population live on a dollar a day. Bangladesh last week launched a rural employment programme for the poor.
Governments in Haiti, Egypt and the Philippines are among those already facing social unrest because of food prices and shortages. If the price increases continue, Strauss-Kahn said, “Thousands, hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will be suffering from malnutrition, with consequences for all their lives.”
“Rich countries demand for biofuel is driving up food prices and is a big part of the problem,” said Elizabeth Stuart, an Oxfam policy adviser. “Meanwhile, by cutting aid levels, they are doing precious little to be part of the solution.” Germany’s development minister urged greater regulation of the global biofuels market to prevent its expansion from driving up food prices.