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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 5 , 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Youth violence: causes, cures
Families at risk of foreclosure find help at Catholic Charities, Concord
Higher food prices spark global protests
A man walks through the streets of Dakar, Senegal, April 26, to protest rising food prices. More than 1,000 people, some carrying empty rice sacks, joined the demonstration.

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — As protests over rising food costs spread around the globe, experts warn that high prices are here to stay, and Catholic bishops are calling for governments to take emergency measures to keep their poorest citizens from going hungry.

Already this year, demonstrations linked to spiraling food prices have struck more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Protests forced Haitian Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis out of office April 12, and demonstrators have been killed in Cameroon, Peru and Mozambique.

The price increases are fueled by a variety of factors that “are all coming together at once,” said Lisa Kuennen, director of the public resource group at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency.

Drought last year in Australia and Canada pushed wheat prices up, while flooding destroyed crops in various countries, she said. High oil prices have increased the price of petroleum-based fertilizers and increased transportation costs.

Another factor is the rising standard of living in China and India, which has led to increased demand for luxury foods such as meat and milk. Because it takes seven or eight pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat, increased meat consumption drives up demand for grain and, therefore, the price.

In China, per-capita milk consumption quadrupled between 1990 and 2000, while poultry consumption more than doubled and the consumption of fish nearly doubled. In India, the consumption of meat, milk and fish also has increased.

Price increases hit poor countries — and their poorest citizens — hardest.

In Guatemala, the price of tortillas, a staple food, has risen 30 percent in the past few months. Poor Mexicans, who eat nearly a pound of tortillas a day per person, have seen the price double in the past two years. Workers earn the minimum wage of about $4 a day.

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