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Earth Policy Institute: Podcast

May 3, 2011

By Lester R. Brown

In February, world food prices reached the highest level on record. Soaring food prices are already a source of spreading hunger and political unrest, and it appears likely that they will climb further in the months ahead.

As a result of an extraordinarily tight grain situation, this year’s harvest will be one of the most closely watched in years. Last year, the world produced 2,180 million tons of grain. It consumed 2,240 million tons, a consumption excess that was made possible by drawing down stocks by 60 million tons. (See data.) To avoid repeating last year’s shortfall and to cover this year’s estimated 40-million-ton growth in demand, this year’s world grain harvest needs to increase by at least 100 million tons. Yet that would only maintain the current precarious balance between supply and demand.