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Chart of global trade volume in wheat, coarse grain and soybeans 1990 to 2008, and projected to 2016. United States Department of Agriculture, 2008. Chart of the United States stock to use ratio of soybeans, maize and wheat, from 1977 to 2007, and projected to 2016. United States Department of Agriculture, September 2007. Record high prices occurred during the food price crisis followed by another surge in prices since 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The initial causes of the late-2006 price spikes included droughts in grain-producing nations and rising oil prices. The steep rise in crop yields in the US began in the 1940s. The percentage of growth was fastest in the early rapid growth stage. In developed counties the yield growth slowdown has been less for maize than for wheat and soybeans. In developing countries maize yields are still rapidly rising. US pound, more than doubling the price in just seven months. Growth in food production was greater than population growth since 1961.
To prevent price growth, food production should outpace population growth, which was about 1. World population has grown from 1. 6 billion in 1900 to over 7. The head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, stated in 2008 that the gradual change in diet among newly prosperous populations is the most important factor underpinning the rise in global food prices. One kilogram of beef requires seven kilograms of feed grain. These reports, therefore, conclude that usage in industrial, feed, and input intensive foods, not population growth among poor consumers of simple grains, has contributed to the price increases. Although the vast majority of the population in Asia remains rural and poor, the growth of the middle class in the region has been dramatic.
For comparison, in 1990, the middle class grew by 9. 7 percent in India and 8. 6 percent in China, but by 2007 the growth rate was nearly 30 percent and 70 percent respectively. Another issue with rising affluence in India and China was reducing the “shock absorber” of poor people who are forced to reduce their resource consumption when food prices rise.
This reduced price elasticity and caused a sharp rise in food prices during some shortages. In the media, China is often mentioned as one of the main reasons for the increase in world food prices. Costs for fertilizer raw materials other than oil, such as potash, have been increasing as increased production of staples increases demand. In the past, nations tended to keep more sizable food stockpiles, but more recently, due to a faster pace of food growth and ease of importation, less emphasis is placed on high stockpiles.
Destabilizing influences, including indiscriminate lending and real estate speculation, led to a crisis in January 2008 and eroded investment in food commodities. Foreign investment drives productivity improvements, and other gains for farmers. In a 2010 article in Harper’s magazine, Frederick Kaufman accused Goldman Sachs of profiting while many people went hungry or even starved. While developed countries pressured the developing world to abolish subsidies in the interest of trade liberalization, rich countries largely kept subsidies in place for their own farmers. In recent years United States government subsidies have been added to push production toward biofuel rather than food and vegetables .