Rising Food Prices Might Be Causing Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa

Rising food prices and food riots

Last week, I put together a small post hypothesizing that rising food prices are associated with protests in South Africa. I showed how the pattern of newspaper reports on protests follows the current pattern on rising food prices, as measured through the FAO worldwide Food Price Index.

Turns out, researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute had the same idea, but they applied it to food riots in the Middle East and North Africa. The results of their research are presented to the left.

The pattern is the same. Riots tend to be clustered during rapid price increases, and sparse (non-existent) when prices drop.

I have already written on the influence of Wall Street on price rise and volatility. This frightening pattern is no accident. If this result and mine are any indication, unrest will continue. Food prices will likely continue rising, with some intermittent drops.

My feeling is that the recent explosion of protest in Islamic countries is less related to a childish video, and more about individuals unable to properly feed their families. Given the United States financial sectors complicity in creating these conditions, they are right to be angry. Until the Americans become proactive toward regulating food commodity speculation, this situation will only worsen.

It is my opinion that this will be the most important issue of our time, and could very lead to massive instability and violence.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

4 responses to “Rising Food Prices Might Be Causing Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa”

  1. mikey2ct says :

    Pete, I think the economy everywhere is suffering and feeding your family is as important to a radical jihadist, where ever they live, or a peasant farmer in China. How many countries have people starving, even children even in the USA. Look at what the GOP wants to do to the SNAP portion of the yet un-passed Farm bill.

  2. Pete Larson says :

    Food is everything. When people can’t eat, they get angry.

    Right wingers everywhere hate SNAP. Politically, it’s an easy target. Nothing gets people more riled up than to think that black people are eating off tax payer money. I’ve been on Food Stamps and it worked for me. It feeds kids, and puts money into local economies at the same time.

    Let ’em hate it. They’ll never get my vote.

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