Friday, January 02, 2009

WSJ on Food and Agriculture: A Contrast in Families

On December 30, the Wall Street Journal published an article evidencing the complex policy challenges facing agriculture and world food production. A striking contrast was presented in the article Two Families' Shifting Fortunes, a story of two families that exemplify the food crisis in Ethiopia and the prosperity experienced by many in China. As the article notes, "[a]lthough the world is producing more food than ever before, a tug on one link of the food chain can still rattle others far away." The two-year old Chinese child in Bejing, sitting with her grandfather at a restaurant before "plates of pork, chicken, beef, and duck" is in sharp contrast to the one year old Ethiopian child in a food line with his mother.
Growing demand in one corner of the world has complicated consequences elsewhere. To feed its voracious appetite for pork and other meats, China bought a record 490 million bushels of U.S. soybeans - mostly to feed to livestock - during the year ended August 31, or about 18% of the harvest. The squeeze on soybean supply forced prices higher. That had a impact in Ethiopia, where soybeans are a crucial ingredient, along with corn, in a special mixture fortified with micronutrients for malnourished children.
While the problems of agriculture and food production in Ethiopia are far more complicated than the world's demand for more and more meat, the article reveals a very personalized picture of the global give and take.

The WSJ provides a video summary of the Ethiopian dilemma.


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