By Dinouk Colombage
As the unnatural weather conditions continue to wreak havoc, governments around the world are preparing to ‘tighten the belt’ as food prices are expected to soar as food levels drop.
The floods in Australia, the prolonged snowstorms in Europe and the United States, and the potential drought in China, have all contributed to the rise in world food prices. Back in Sri Lanka the flooding in the Central and North Eastern parts of the country have also greatly diminished the local food supplies.
In Australia, floods in the Gold Coast and parts of Victoria have scene wide-scale destruction to farming land. Speaking to Jack Robertson, a student at the University of Sydney, The Sunday Leader learnt of the rising food prices and growing food shortage that is affecting the country. “The cost of many essential items have risen greatly in price, the government is doing all that it can but the cost of wheat products has shot through the roof. We are also seeing shortages of products previously considered an everyday item. Bananas have disappeared from many of the smaller grocery stores; this is because of the heavy flooding that hit Brisbane.” The cost of rebuilding the flood that destroyed the North of the country has also taken its toll on the food economy. Economists have predicted that the large cost of rebuilding Queensland will eventually take a toll on the food budget.
In China, a severe winter drought has threatened the crop production levels; China is the world’s largest provider of wheat. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has explained that the below-normal rainfall in the past five months has threatened not only the crops but also the supply of drinking water to millions. It is believed that if China was to go out and purchase wheat from the world market to replace that which will be lost in the drought, it would cause a severe ripple effect throughout the world food market.
Although the wheat produce levels in China have not been affected, analysts warn that if the winter drought was to continue into spring it would have an ‘adverse effect.’ Peter Ronkin from the World Food Programme explained that “measures are being put in place to combat a potentially damaging drought in China.” He, however, refused to rule out the possibility that a food shortage may occur sometime in the future.
In Sri Lanka, the food shortage has been clearly linked to the unnaturally long and harsh monsoons in the Central and North-East of the country. More than 50% of the Maha harvest has been lost to rain, while at least 80% of the paddy lands in the Batticaloa District and 70% in the Trincomalee and Ampara Districts have been lost to heavy flooding. Vietnam is the only country considered to have an exportable surplus of rice; this will no doubt see an increase in the world rice prices.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking at the Food Protection and Cost of Living Committee, ordered that a ‘strategic plan’ be put into practice in the face of an impending food crisis. He further added that there are signs which point towards a potential food shortage by April 2012. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture told The Sunday Leader that despite the devastating floods in the country, steps are being taken to prevent food shortages in the country.