Climate Conversations - How to avoid another food crisis

The United States is currently in the midst of a severe drought, its worst in 50 years. Half of all U.S. counties have been declared disaster areas. In response, the international prices of maize and soybeans have risen past 2007-08 peaks, when they fueled food riots in more than 30 countries.

There have not been food riots but the world remains in a tenuous position. Another shock to the global food system could spark another food crisis. Here are four things to watch:

MAIZE IMPORTS

The demand for maize has risen drastically in the past 10 years due to increasing demands for livestock feed in emerging economies and biofuel in high-income countries. Production cannot keep up and prices are rising. This is the status quo.

Add in what will be a disappointing maize harvest from a high-production country - the U.S. - and the world is one step closer to a calamitous food crisis.

The U.S. exports 53 percent of the world's maize. Major maize-importing countries will feel these record high prices once local supplies are exhausted.

For example, many African countries have recently harvested maize - or are preparing to do so. They may avoid the full impact of high prices for months. Once their local production is consumed, these countries must rely on maize from international markets where there is no escape from high prices.

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