Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food Inflation Watch: The Washington Post Global Food Crisis series II

The irony of specialization, globalization, and the 'Dutch disease' (well kinda)!

Where Every Meal Is a Sacrifice:

...By sacrificing the she-goat last month, the 39-year-old day laborer and goatherd traded the family's morning milk for dinner meat. It lasted a few days. With the family unable to afford skyrocketing prices for basic foods, he said, his two young children now cry in the morning from hunger. One recent morning, he could take it no more. He took the goat's kid -- one of the last two animals in his flock -- to the squalid livestock market here in the hopes of selling it to buy food. "Everything -- the wheat, rice, sugar and animal feeds -- is higher priced than I have ever seen them before," he said. "What will we do? Soon we will have nothing left to sell."

Like most of the world's poorest nations, Mauritania is caught in a global food trap, producing only 30 percent of what its people eat and importing most of the rest. As prices skyrocket, those who can least afford it are squeezed the most as the world confronts the worst bout of food inflation since the Soviet grain crisis of the 1970s.

...Mauritania's government abandoned long-standing policies of fixed food prices in the 1990s. But it also gave up on large-scale efforts to boost agricultural production, shifting resources to iron ore mining and other industries.The last big agricultural push here -- an internationally backed effort to grow irrigated crops in the country's south -- failed more than 15 years ago, officials say, because money went to businessmen rather than farmers. They lacked the motivation and know-how required for large-scale cultivation.


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