Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

What is Not Seen

I wonder if this:

Hungry Haitians stormed the presidential palace Tuesday to demand the resignation of President Rene Preval over soaring food prices and U.N. peacekeepers battled rioters with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But nowhere do they pose a greater threat to democracy than in Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries where in the best of times most people struggle to fill their bellies.

is related to this:

The recent rise in corn prices–almost 70 percent in the past six months–caused by the increased demand for ethanol biofuel has come much sooner than many agriculture economists had expected.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, this year the country is going to use 18 to 20 percent of its total corn crop for the production of ethanol, and by next year that will jump to 25 percent. And that increase, says Marshall Martin, an agriculture economist at Purdue University, “is the main driver behind the price increase for corn.”

The jump in corn prices is already affecting the cost of food. The most notable example: in Mexico, which gets much of its corn from the United States, the price of corn tortillas has doubled in the past year, according to press reports, setting off large protest marches in Mexico City. It’s almost certain that most of the rise in corn prices is due to the U.S. ethanol policy, says David Victor, director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University.

“All things that use corn are going to have higher prices and higher cost, to some extent, that will be passed on to consumers,” says Wally Tyner, professor of agriculture economics at Purdue University. The impact of this is being felt first in animal feed, particularly poultry and pork. Poultry feed is about two-thirds corn; as a result, the cost to produce poultry–both meat and eggs–has already risen about 15 percent due to corn prices, says Tyner.

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April 9, 2008 - Posted by | Environmentalism, Food, Seeing

2 Comments »

  1. With all the talk about the US “losing” in global trade, one doesn’t think about this, but it appears that the US is by far the biggest player in corn:

    The United States grew 42 percent of the world’s corn in during fiscal year 2006, producing 282.3 million metric tons (11.1 billion bushels). Other major corn producing countries in 2006 included:

    China -139.4 million metric tons (5.5 billion bushels)
    Brazil – 41.7 million metric tons (1.64 billion bushels)
    European Union – 48.3 million metric tons (1.9 billion bushels)
    Mexico – 19.5 million metric tons (767 million bushels)
    Argentina – 15.8 million metric tons (622 million bushels)
    India – 15 million metric tons (590.5 million bushels)
    source

    So if we take 25% of our corn out of food and into ethanol, that’s 10% of the global supply of corn. Yow.

    I wonder how much it also effects things that we have such large barriers to sugar imports, which has food manufacturers using corn syrup rather than sugar for many sweetening applications.

    Comment by DarwinCatholic | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. And speaking of sugar imports, isn’t sugar cane more efficiently transformed in to ethanol than corn? Of course, no one produces sugar cane in Iowa…

    Comment by Jon D. | April 9, 2008 | Reply


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