The rise in the price of basic food has had devastating effects on the most vulnerable—the poor who spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. Some of the measures taken in response, such as export restrictions, have been highly counter-productive. In 2009 the world needs to reflect on the underlying causes of the food crisis and start addressing structural factors, in particular the link to biofuels and water.
Frank Rijsberman, from the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute, gave warning in 2003 that if current trends continued, the livelihoods of one-third of the world’s population could be affected by water scarcity by 2025: “We could be facing annual losses equivalent to the entire grain crops of India and the United States combined.” Normally, when people hear about water scarcity they think of tap water; he talked about crops. And the dimension of the problem ahead is vast: America and India combined produce about 30% of globally consumed cereals.