Four years ago, food prices increased so dramatically that there were riots in 18 countries. According to The Economist, which began a food-price index in 1845, they reached their highest in 2007. The price of food fell to more normal and affordable levels after that, but global food prices have once again become news. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, monthly food prices have been rising consecutively since July 2009. In the past 12 months, the prices of corn, wheat and soybean have risen 52 per cent, 49 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.
The president of the World Bank and former US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick, recently warned that global food prices are at “dangerous levels.” And the World Bank reports that the rising cost of food has driven about 44 million people into poverty in the past eight months. These increasing costs are not only being felt in developing countries. In Australia and New Zealand, food prices and the cost of living are also escalating.
Concerned about the spiking food prices, countries like Russia and Ukraine have banned food exports until they are sure they can feed their own citizens.
The “financialisation” of food is one of the reasons why prices have increased so dramatically. A simple comparison of the food items that are traded on the futures markets with those that are not will demonstrate what trading in these commodities has done to their prices—foods that were not open to trading speculation on futures markets rose only a fraction compared to those that were.
Another reason for the food price rise lies in the adoption of biofuels as a way to ease back CO2 production and to provide an alternative to oil dependency. Around 40 per cent of the corn crop in the US, enough to feed about 350 million people, goes to make fuel for cars. The more land devoted to biofuels, the less that is available for food. And with oil prices increasing, expect demand for biofuels to only get higher. And let’s not forget the extreme weather patterns that have destroyed so many food crops.
In a Sydney Morning Herald news report, Professor Julian Cribb, adjunct professor of science communication at the University of Technology Sydney, said, “humanity’s major challenge over the next few decades is not climate change, but how it can grow the food that the planet’s people will demand.”
“Barring wars or major accidents, there will be about 9.2 billion people in the world in 2050—but they will eat as much food as 13 billion at today’s nutritional levels.”
It is not very hard to imagine what a shortage of food could lead to. The riots and civil unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries give a glimpse of what might follow.
But has such a situation been predicted? Well, yes.
Facts and figures
- The world’s population will increase by 35 per cent in 2050.
- Global demand for food is expected to double by 2050.
- 26 per cent of the world’s population are farmers.
- If the world ate at the same rate as Americans and Australians, we would need four planets to feed everybody.
- We waste about a third of the food we produce.
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald
A scene of widespread famine is portrayed symbolically in the Bible through a pair of scales in the hands of a rider on a horse, who declares, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Revelation 6:6).
The scales suggest that careful rationing will be needed in using the little food that can be purchased with a day’s wages. The worldwide extent of the crisis is also intimated by the mention that “a fourth of the earth” will be destroyed “by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (verse 8, emphasis added).
Just what that means in reality, no-one can say for sure, but Jesus Christ, in talking of the days just before He returned, said very clearly, “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:7, 8).
Despite the fact that governments and the international community are trying to solve the world’s food problems, more than a billion people are still suffering from malnutrition and starvation.
The problem of hunger is also increasing in many developing nations, where the population rise is far outstripping any increase in food production and its affordability.
The end of the present order will be brought about by the return of Jesus Christ to earth. His return will bring an end to human perversity and suffering, and will restore peace and justice. The fact that we are experiencing an unprecedented intensification of disasters, such as drought and their consequent famines and food shortages, which threaten the survival of mankind, is a clear sign to the Bible believer that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. And if so, are you ready?