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Mozambique bread riots may be warning sign on African food security

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Nastasya Tay/AP

(Read caption) A woman passes burning tires in a street in Maputo, Mozambique last Thursday, a day after police opened fire on stone-throwing crowds who were protesting rising prices in this impoverished country.

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I have a supreme conviction that global food markets are but the perturbation of a butterflys's wing away from a serious tipping point. In fact, I would venture that the best way to play the narrative fallacy that is the "Global Climate Change Denial Camp" is via buying a basket of breakfast commodities and grains. There are more of us, our average calorific intake is a multiple of what it was, and we have toasted the planet -- capping global agricultural output. Narrowing that perception gap and converting it into real action is going to be like herding cats.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is fond of saying that the food markets have ample inventory and that there is absolutely nothing to worry our little heads about. May I refer you to wheat, which ramped 38 percent higher in July, 3.7 percent in August, and so far this month a further 7 percent. The reasons are well known: Russia has undergone a heatwave and Vladimir Putin (probably not keen on going the way of Indonesia's President Suharto - anger over soaring food prices after he cut fuel and some food subsidies helped drive him from power in 1998) immediately cancelled all Russian wheat exports. This is a perfect example of the asymmetry of the food markets. The moment there is a hint of trouble, countries start hoarding. It creates a concertina effect.


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