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Food Not Facebook

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As the graph above shows, food prices globally have increased at a pace that is even greater than the surge in oil prices over the last twelve months. We will skip the blame game except to note that food shortages and the associated rising costs were at the heart of what triggered the social unrest in North Africa. Recall that the Tunisian self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi was a protest against authorities that had confiscated his produce cart because he did not possess a license.

While some countries in North Africa responded to their citizen uprising by taking the internet offline and shutting down media outlets, we are not in the camp to solely attribute the unrest to social networking campaigns. Although we do not discount their usefulness either in commandeering voices behind a cause, the numbers do not support the claims in our opinion.

Two facts are often overlooked by pundits attributing North African social unrest to a social media campaign. First, according to the CIA World Fact Book, less than 10% of the combined populations of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia have internet access. Second, the literacy rate across these four countries averages approximately 68% of the adult population. Collectively, these penetration rates across the populations mentioned do not translate into the levels of protest seen in the streets of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Something more was at work. Both weather and the proceeding global financial crisis left these nations with a shortage of fundamental public resources. Unstable and sky-rocketing food prices were, in our opinion, the spark to a powder-keg situation already brewing in the region.

Key Items Impacting Food Supplies:

  • Asian diets are shifting to more animal protein which in turn uses up more grains
  • One kilo of meat requires approximately 3 to 5 kilos of feed grain during production
  • Russia experienced the worst drought in 130 years that curtailed its prior winter’s planting efforts and last summer's harvest
  • Argentina was impacted by a drought too
  • Late rains impacted Canadian crops
  • Flooding damaged Pakistan and Australian farm lands
  • U.S. ethanol subsidies divert resources away from food production


Post a Comment Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
Gavin Gibson | Mar. 14, 2011
These points brought up by yourself makes those that read it surely begin to understand that food and water are the most important necessities we all need. But the price of food, oil and gas are far too high and hopefully the governments can reduce these prices so we can all find a way to live without people being deprived, to help the world run smoother.

William in Ajax Ontario | Mar. 14, 2011
I think Canada and the U.S. should hurry up and get that new fangled perimeter agreement in place pronto! Before the first stolen super tanker arrives with its 11,000 refugees looking for a new home. Thats what I think!

Christopher Fisher | Mar. 14, 2011
Succinct, convincing, powerful visual, and supported by data. Thanks. Well done.

| Mar. 12, 2011
The awful irony of the situation is that protesting food prices seems to increase the price of oil which in turn drives up the price of food.

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