Towards an International Agreement on Confronting Inflation

  • 9 April 2008

The world is facing a major food crisis for various reasons, such as rising food prices and inadequate supplies. The crisis has forced countries to put curbs on the export of major crops and agricultural products to meet the needs of the domestic market. This has further exacerbated the crisis in many regions of the world, and the World Bank recently warned that as many as 33 countries are currently facing threats of political turmoil and social confusion because of the sudden rise in the food prices of agricultural products and energy. Various reports indicate that the age of cheap food is over, and that many countries could face difficult problems in this regard, as economic studies indicate that the crisis is not temporary, but may be long-term. Because of a global crisis, President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, has called for a "new deal" at the international level to address the food crisis in all its aspects because only through international cooperation could effective strategies and plans be formulated for dealing with the crisis. 

Food shortage or scarcity, say some economists, is causing a rise in food prices in many countries of the world. This represents a serious threat to the security and stability of the region at a global level. As the crisis directly affects people on a daily basis, the problem is not merely an economic one, but has political, security and social dimensions that require joint action by international organizations concerned with the preservation of security and stability in the world in the face of rising "hunger.” Undoubtedly, the crisis varies in intensity from country to country, but in the age of "globalization" that has enhanced mutual interdependence, the impact of a regional food crisis would have a cumulative impact across the world, which would make it a global crisis. 

Food crises are traditionally associated with poor and developing countries, areas of conflict and political unrest. Climatic and humanitarian causes play a large role in the outbreak of such crises. However, the picture is changing and food shortages have started affecting the rich and poor countries alike, because the issue is related to the lack of food with a significant increase in demand. Therefore, the need for a strategy to tackle the problem should take into consideration various new conditions. 

Along with the importance of cooperation at the international level to counter the food crisis, there is a need for a new set of domestic policies by countries that develop long-term plans that focus on building strategic reserves of food, so that they are not faced with a sudden crisis. In this context, one can appreciate the importance of a recent study conducted by the Ministry of Economy in the UAE, on "strategic food stocks" of 15 commodities, which would be sufficient to cater to the country’s needs for a period of six months.