There were two interesting articles in today's Irish Times. One talked about how the price of foodstuffs has rocketed recently in much of Africa, pushing many people into dependence on food aid. Taking Ethiopia as an example country, the article talked about the urban poor are bearing the brunt of the rising cost of food. This is potentially problematic - aside from the impact on the urban poor themselves, it raises the prospect of social instability and rioting.
The odd thing about all this is that there does not seem to be a shortage of food as such - it is just becoming unaffordable. The article failed to inquire as to why this might be the case, but a separate article suggested a possible cause - biofuel. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you turn land over to the production of biofuel then you are going to be producing less food. In effect, Ethiopians are going hungry so that people in the West can drive cars. UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon has hitherto been swept along by the biofuel hype, but now he is urging caution and warning of the dangers to the world's poor.
Here is a Guardian article on the subject (proably the same as the second of the two articles that appeared in the Irish Times)