The coming famine

19 November, 2021

También puedes leer «The coming famine» en español

Global food prices rose 31.3% in one year. Against the disastrous backdrop of capitalist chaos, which does not even enable 40% of the world’s population to afford a healthy diet and keeps 30% under food insecurity, the prospect of this runaway inflation is a wave of famines. Compounding it all: the Green Deal.

Table of Contents

Global staple food prices grew by 31.3%

FAO food price index at highest levels since the '73 crisis and on its way to a global all-time high. FAO infers from this the proximity of famine
FAO food price index at highest levels since the ’73 crisis and on its way to a global all-time high. FAO infers from this the proximity of famine

The FAO food price index marked a 31.3% growth over October 2020. Vegetable oils at their highest prices on record so far and cereals (22.4%), i.e. staples, were the items showing the biggest rises. Proteins are not promising either: dairy rose by 15.5% and meat by 22.1% compared to a year ago.

First effect: undernourishment

Chinese workers eating during a break. Hunger and famine affect not only peasants in semicolonial countries, but, increasingly, workers on every continent.
Chinese workers eating during a break. Hunger and famine affect not only peasants in semicolonial countries, but, increasingly, workers on every continent.

The first effect of this brutal rise in staple food prices is a shift in demand towards even cheaper alternatives to the more abundant grains and cheap vegetable oils such as palm oil, already unhealthy in themselves.

These increases are very worrying, as people are turning to cheaper, often less healthy foods. For food security, we monitor grain prices a lot, but we see that non-cereal commodities are also increasing, especially fruits and vegetables.

Rob Vos, director of the markets division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri)

This shift in consumption may seem minor, but it is not. According to UN estimates by Taft University in the US, 3,000,000,000 people, almost 40% of the world’s population, do not have enough purchasing power to eat healthy. Now, make their diet worse and wait and see what happens.

Second effect: famine in sight

From food insecurity to famine. Levels according to FIES-FAO
From food insecurity to famine. Levels according to FIES-FAO

This brutal rise in prices means raising the capitalist “food normality” to a new level where starvation will be part of the lives of millions. And that “normality” was not acceptable at all: 1 in 10 people went hungry and 1 in 3 already lived under serious “food risk”.

If 40% of the world’s population has an insufficient diet and more than 30% is at “food risk”, then it doesn’t take much analytical ability to realize what the result of raising the prices of basic foodstuffs by 30% is. Hunger and famine are on the horizon like never before.

Hunger and the danger of famine are now everyday issues in Brazil or Singapore. And it is not exclusively a disaster for semi-colonial countries. In Spain over 3 million people cannot eat meat or heat their homes. In Britain, food banks are at an all-time high. Such pauperization and its ultimate product, hunger, is a reality that permeates the boundaries between different national capital groups and affects an increasing number of workers around the world.

Read also: Hunger: two take-home messages (in Spanish), 7/16/2019

The capitalist crisis and the Green Deal

Solar park "Francisco Pizarro", Badajoz, Spain. Solar and wind power plants increasingly compete for land with agriculture, restricting productive capacity and increasing prices.
Solar park “Francisco Pizarro”, Badajoz, Spain. Solar and wind power plants increasingly compete for land with agriculture, restricting productive capacity and increasing prices.

The cause of this looming disaster is the same as those of the increasing chaos we see in the countries with the most concentrated national capitals: the growing contradictions of a capital choked by an accumulation which is struggling with markets increasingly restricted by the trade war and generating increasingly dangerous imperialist tensions.

The spearhead of the global “recovery”, the Green Deal in the agrarian world is just beginning to emerge: on the one hand the rising energy prices have not only raised costs directly, they have also pushed up the prices of energy-intensive fertilizers and pesticides; on the other hand, the development of agrofuels and the use of ever larger areas for renewable energy plants compete directly for the price of land.

And if the growth of capital is increasingly antagonistic to human development, its crises and “recoveries” are directly devastating.

Do we want to “be in solidarity” with the hungry? Do we want to avoid becoming so? Do we want to free humanity from this inhuman dictatorship of profit that only produces hunger and bad life? The enemy is always in our own country, above us. Let us impose the criterion of human need on the capital above us. And let us begin as soon as possible!¡

Hunger: two take-home messages (in Spanish), 16/7/2019
También puedes leer «The coming famine» en español