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Posts Tagged ‘food prices’

Saturday’s events in Tokyo

On the first full day of anti-G8 action in Tokyo yesterday, there were workshops held throughout the city from 1pm, consisting of various “working groups”. These were then followed by a General Meeting at 6pm, which I attended. The meeting was held in Bunkyo Kumin Center near Kasuga station and the main speaker was Susan George of ATTAC France and Transnational Institute. She is a long-time activist and the author of a number of books on poverty including How the Other Half Dies (1976).

The first hour of the meeting was given to introductions and the reports by the “working groups”. These groups covered issues such as trade, sexual discrimination and American bases on Okinawa and Guam among others.

Shut Down the G8 Summit - Working Groups report

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Recent stories

It’s been a month since I wrote Part 5 – Consequences for Japan. The following is a round-up of some of the recent stories here, coupled with some of my thoughts.

The rising food prices in Japan are continuing to make themselves felt with pasta and vinegar the latest concerns. The Japan Times/Kyodo News reported on Wednesday that:

Starting Sept. 1, Mizkan Group Corp. said it will raise the price of 37 consumer-use vinegar products by 8 percent to 10 percent… because of rising crop prices. It will be the company’s first price hikes in 18 years.

90% of Japanese are now thinking of saving money when they shop, and there are reports of troubles in the restaurant industry. The most famous such establishment in Osaka, Osaka Meibutsu Kuidaore, is due to shut down in July, partly due to falling sales.

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Rising concerns

The World Food Program have declared that the food crisis is a “silent tsunami” sweeping the world which, like a large natural disaster, requires a global response. Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning harbour wave. Could this disaster-prone country be seriously affected by the crisis?

In a recent survey, over 40% of people in Japan viewed rising food prices as a concern. As Kyodo News reports:

(This) represented three-fold increases from a survey in January 2007 and marked record highs since this question was first asked in 1998…

It would appear that they are right to be worried. The price rises are hitting the poor in Japan hard. For widow-headed households, average expenditure is now higher than income. Is the recent rationing of rice in the United States and the United Kingdom just the tip of the iceberg for developed countries?

In Part 4 I looked at global agriculture, but in this post I will cover the likely consequences of peak food for Japan.

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Rising food prices

The worldwide price rises in food are beginning to have a serious effect in Japan. Last year the government raised the price at which it sells imported wheat to millers for the first time since 1983. In November, the country was forced to use emergency funds to support noodle-makers, bakers and breweries.

Now butter is running out due to the price of animal feed increasing. The government is again raising wholesale wheat prices this month, this time by about 30%. This will further inflate the price of what little butter is available. The prices of soy beans and cooking oil have also surged, leading some restaurants to buy in bulk.

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In Part 1 – Price Rises and Causes, I wrote about how the World Food Program are slashing their aid this year, unless they receive further funding from donors. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the developing world.

The one thing that is likely to cause social unrest, above politics, religion and human rights, is when peoples’ access to food starts to disappear and empty stomachs abound.

We are wasting energy on a scale never seen before, and the immediate consequence of this is that we are no longer producing enough food for everyone’s current rate of consumption. As a result of shortages, the food prices are rising, denying the world’s poorest of sustenance. The initial effects in Japan are stories such as Kentucky Fried Chicken increasing their prices for the first time since 1992.

However, for the developing world, where people spend a far higher proportion of their budget on food, the situation is becoming desperate. The world is beginning to erupt in a series of food riots. I have tried to summarise some of the major disturbances, but the list is growing longer every day.

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And so it begins…

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced in March that the number of people they can help will fall greatly this year, due to the recent and sustained increase in the price of food. They are appealing to governments around the world to up their funding to meet their needs. A recent Al Jazeera programme highlighted the startling reality of the situation:

The WFP says at least $500 million is needed immediately.

Since last June, the cost of fuel and food worldwide has shot up by 55 per cent on average.

That spells bad news for more than 73 million people worldwide who rely on the UN for food handouts.

The deadline given for receiving the funding is May 1st. If they do not meet this target then many of the people reliant on the charity of others for their food will starve.

That’s right, whilst in a country such as the United Kingdom, recent grain price increases have raised the cost of bread and are putting pressure on pig farmers, elsewhere people will die.

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