Well, I got an eyeful this morning. For various and sundry reasons the world’s grains in reserve level has fallen to a 57 day supply. That is the lowest level in 34 years. There is not enough of a grain surplus to meet the needs of the world’s poor in the event of an emergency and even wealthy people will be paying considerably more for food in 2008. There has already been signs of panic buying in places like India where a food shortage of any kind would bring chaos. The demand for biofuels is exacerbating the problem and as large populations in places like India and China grow more affluent they demand more meat. More meat means a greater need for animal feed. In the United States, people can expect to pay 10 percent more for chicken, 14 percent more for milk and 21 percent more for eggs and the price of bread is expected to rise by 50 percent. To make matters even worse, most developing countries, where the bulk of the world's poor live, will be hit the hardest by crop damage related to climate change.
Closer to home, the Secretary of Social Development of Mexico recently announced that 44,700,000 Mexicans are now living in poverty, more than 14 million of which live in conditions that can only be described as extreme. I can tell you as a witness that when they are talking about extreme poverty they mean very extreme. I have been to places where the people eat only one real meal a day and that is nothing more than some tortillas, some chilies, and perhaps a handful of beans or rice. It used to be that you could buy a kilo of tortillas for 5 pesos or about half a dollar. That is 2.2 pounds, enough for a meager daily needs of four people…two adults and two children if that is all they eat. If you are making two dollars a day or less, that kilo of tortillas would cost you twenty five percent of your daily income. When you add in the current rise in the price of corn and subsequently a rise in the price of tortillas to six, seven, or eight pesos per kilo the extremely poor really suffer, especially the children. The rest of the poor people don’t fare much better either. If you are making three dollars a day and that lifts you out of the “extreme” bracket…well whoop-ti-doo! You are still probably going to bed hungry quite often, not counting the fact that you already wear cast off clothing, your teeth are falling out, you wear plastic flip-flop shoes and you live in a cardboard and pallet wood shack with no electricity, no running water, and no sewer.
I am sad to say it folks but I think we are all in for a rude awakening. I hope everyone has a nice Christmas this year because after that I am afraid we are in for some pretty tough sledding.