World grain stocks to fall lowest in 20 years in 2008; UN body

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New Delhi, Oct 28 (UNI) The colossal food surpluses of the 1960s and 1970s in the industrialised world, widely referred to as "grain mountaints" and "wine lakes" by agricultural econonmists, are a thing of the past, a United Nations body says.

The alert sounded by United Nations World Food Programme is a matter of concern for countries like India which imported over five million tonnes of wheat last year and is paying through nose for fresh imports this year.

On top of the commodity price rise of 50 per cent over the past five years, the WFP are projecting an additional 35 per cent increase over the next two years, which will result in lesser delivery of food by about 780,000 metric tonne.

"Today, those mountains have eroded and the lakes have dried up," according to WFP executive director Josette Sheeran. In the next year, world grain stocks are expected to fall to their lowest levels in two decades, she says, adding as supply runs low, prices are being driven upwards.

From current global citizenry of 6.7 billion, the United Nations projects world population to climb to 8 billion by 2025 and to 9.1 billion by 2050, adding that the vast majority of that growth will take place in the developing world.

As populations in India and China move out of abject poverty (living on 1 dollar per day) they, like the rest of the developed world, consume eggs, dairy products, or even chicken. Almost all milk and egg-producing animals consume grains. So in essence, cows and chickens are competing with humans for corn and wheat.

Secondly,farmers are selling their corn production to ethanol producers, further straining supplies for human consumption.

Thirdly, farmers, their families and their customers, have also to contend with the most unpredictable phenomenon in the world today: the weather. Farmers throughout the developing world depend heavily on WFP for food and assistance when disaster strikes. And climate change has meant that disaster is striking more frequently.

The head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said recently the sheer number of floods, droughts and storms in 2007 is bound to increase the demand for assistance from agencies like WFP.

"So this combination of growing world population, increased commodity prices and climate change are forming a perfect storm that has driven WFP into an uncomfortably tight corner," Sheeran says.


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