Published: Aug 23, 2012
By Kathryn Reid
U.S. drought affects global food prices
©REUTERS/ John Sommers II
Corn plants struggle to survive on the drought-stricken farm field in Indiana, July 24, 2012.
“People are anticipating that this could be one of the worst years for food prices; they are projected to hit record highs,” says Paul Macek, a World Vision expert on global food security.

The price of corn rose by 23 percent in July, as a result of the U.S. drought.

The global food price index, a measure of the monthly change in a standard food “basket,” rose by 6 percent in July, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Despite a few recent showers in the Midwestern United States, more than 60 percent of the country is experiencing persistent drought conditions.

Nearly one quarter of the nation is severely affected, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

Farmers have watched their corn and soybeans wither in dry fields. More than half of the nation's corn crop has been rated poor to very poor, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About 38 percent of the U.S. soybeans were lumped into that category. Cattle and rangelands are also suffering.  

In the world’s poorest countries, where families may spend 60 to 80 percent of their daily income on food, rising food prices threaten health and development.  

When prices are high and poor people have to spend more of their limited income on food, they often resort to ineffective coping strategies to feed their families, Macek says.

“They shift to less nutritious food and skip meals,” he says. “When prioritizing who gets to eat, it’s often the adult male breadwinner, not the children or pregnant women who need it more.”

Without affordable food, children may be forced to drop out of school to work, women turn to prostitution, and men leave their families in search of employment, Macek says.

Rising food prices will also make it harder for aid agencies to meet the global need for food relief. In 2011, the World Food Program (WFP) spent $1.2 billion on food commodities.

For every 10 percent increase in the food basket price, the WFP will spend $200 million more for the same amount of food.

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