A few days ago the UN warned that food prices could rise by 10% to 20% next year after poor harvests and an expected rundown of global reserves. More than 70 African and Asian countries will be the worst hit, said the Food and Agricultural Organization in its monthly report. In its gloomiest forecast since the 2007/08 food crisis, which saw food riots in more than 25 countries and 100 million extra hungry people, the report’s authors urged states to prepare for hardship. “Countries must remain vigilant against supply shocks,” the report warned. “Consumers may have little choice but to pay higher prices for their food. The size of next year’s harvest becomes increasingly critical. For stocks to be replenished and prices to return to more normal levels, large production expansions are needed in 2011.” Furthermore the UN warned that international food import bills could pass the $1 trillion mark, with prices in most commodities up sharply from 2009. Global food reserves, which currently stand at around 74 days, are now expected to decrease significantly in the next few months. “Cereal reserves may drop by around 7%, barley nearly 35%, maize 12% and wheat 10%. Only rice reserves are expected to increase, by 6% next year,” said the report. Much now hangs on next year’s harvests, it said. “International prices could rise even more if production next year does not increase significantly – especially in maize, soybean and wheat. Even the price of rice, the supply of which is more adequate than other cereals, may be affected if prices of other major food crops continue climbing.”
Whilst it is apparent that some of the food price hikes are due to a fall in production-Russia’s ban on wheat exports in the aftermath of the fires- the UN has again overlooked the main culprit, food speculation and the declining value of the dollar. Both are playing havoc with food prices worldwide. The debasement of the dollar reduces the purchasing power of the currency to buy goods and services. As most of the world’s staple foods are traded in dollars, the country purchasing staple foods has to pay more in order to secure the same amount of food supplies to feeds its hungry population. Often poorer countries do not have extra dollars to meet the rise in food prices. Hence some nations are forced to borrow dollars at high interest rates, which in turn makes them further indebted to the donor nations. Other countries are forced to make structural changes to their agricultural policies and grow cash crops instead of staple foods. Thus poorer countries find themselves engulfed in a vicious cycle i.e. they borrow more to pay off debtor nations and at the same time deprive their people of food. Still there are some poorer countries, which have abundance of staple foods, but are forced to sell their crops to earn foreign exchange to pay off debt owed to first world nations.
What makes the food equation even worse between the ‘haves and the have nots’ is rampant speculation by the haves. Speculation usually translates into huge food price spikes, especially when the value of the dollar plunges. This is exactly what happened a few years ago. And now after the recent announcement by the US Federal Reserve to spend an extra $600 billion to stimulate the US economy, speculation on the price of essential food commodities has increased and will continue do so for a considerable time to come. The net effect is that food prices will increase sharply and thereby deprive millions around the world of a basic right.
The Muslim world will be adversely impacted by rising food prices and this will leaves millions of Muslims deprived of food and vulnerable to the harsh economic conditions imposed by the West. The only way for the Muslim ummah to protect her from ever increasing food prices is to work for the re-establishment of the Caliphate. The Caliphate will protect its currency by basing it on the bimetallic standard. Hence food prices will stabilize and will not undergo extreme fluctuations as witnessed today. Moreover, the Caliphate will prohibit food speculation, hoarding and price fixing, thereby ensuring that all citizens of the state are able to afford food. For those unfortunate citizens, who are unable to fend for themselves, the Caliphate will buy foodstuffs from the open market and tend to their needs.
The messenger of Allah (SWT) said, “The Son of Adam has no better right than that he would have a house wherein he may live, a piece of clothing whereby he may hide his nakedness and a piece of bread and some water.” [Tirmidhi]