Ben Bernanke’s appointed title may be that of Federal Reserve Chairman, but the rising price of commodities and the equally burgeoning global demand for US agricultural products have effectively weaponised grains in the United States.
At the centre of this reality are the inflationary policies of the federal government and the complicit role played by Ben Bernanke, who still downplays that which is apparent to almost everyone else: inflation isn’t just coming… it’s already here.
Inflation is exploding across Asia as well, as the cost of food spikes, echoing the previous global food crisis of 2008. While people in the US are feeling minimal effects of higher food prices, getting access to adequate food supplies is a potentially life and death challenge for tens of millions of impoverished people in Asia.
According to the Associated Press, poor families now spend more than half their household income on food and cannot survive further upward price momentum on basic food staples like corn, wheat, and soybeans.
While the President of the United States may have control of the US nuke stockpile, its the economic policy players and major ag-pertinent companies (chief among them: ADM, Bunge, and Cargill) that now hold the power to obliterate life as we know it on continents across the globe.
Liu Shaozhen, who runs a fast-food restaurant in Beijing with her husband tells the Associated Press that she now pays 225 yuan ($34) for a 20-kilogram tub of salad oil, nearly double what it cost when they opened the business in September. Rice costs nearly 40 per cent more. But fierce competition means she cannot charge more or serve smaller portions.
“I’m not making any profits now and actually I’m losing money,” said Liu, who charges 9 yuan ($1.36) for a plate of meat and vegetables on rice.
The World Bank says global food prices have hit “dangerous levels” after jumping 29 per cent overall in the past year. It estimates costlier corn, wheat, and oil have pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty since June.
The UN Food and Agriculture organisation says food costs have reached a historic high but recent good harvests are staving off the kind of food emergency felt in 2008, when shortages and skyrocketing prices caused riots in poor nations.
Other experts fear that the worst is not over yet.
“Just three years after the terrifying food crisis of 2007-2009, prices of the most important commodity of all are skyrocketing,” economists at global bank Credit Suisse wrote in a report on food price inflation.
“Asian inflation is amongst the most sensitive in the world to food price shocks and, despite the likely introduction of further food subsidies and other price controls, we have yet to reach the high-water mark of the latest one.”