Thursday, April 10, 2008

Murphy's Law of Unintended Consequences

It seems there's a little reported crisis in the worlds rice markets. The price of rice, a staple food for most of the world population, is rising steeply. I saw some concern about it in Dubai as reported by Gulf News, but Rico was the first report I saw on the blogs.

Part of the reason for rising rice prices is that fuel costs are rising. But another factor is that acreage used for growing rice is either being used to build industrial factories or for growing more profitable corn for the bio-fuels industry. Corn raised for bio-fuel is not edible. I'm sure that environmentalists who promoted bio-fuels as a renewable, non polluting resource did not envision that the world may starve as a consequence. There were inklings of this happening last year when poor people in Mexico could not afford corn for tortillas because it was all going for bio-fuel. Hopefully, market pressure will encourage putting more acreage into rice as the price rises and if governments remove price controls and export restrictions.

This is certainly something that bears watching. Food shortages on this scale can induce large population shifts and war.

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