The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Rising food prices have deadly consequences

In the last year, the UN has reported a 50 percent increase in the price of basic foods such as fruits, beans and grain. The sharp rise in food prices has had terrible consequences in the Haiti, where, according to BBC News, food riots have left 20 people wounded and 5 dead.

The food riots turned deadly on April 5, when U.N. Peacekeepers, facing rampaging protestors who were looting shops, blocking roads and shooting Peacekeepers, shot back at armed rioters in the town of Les Cayes (Haiti), according to BBC News.

The fifth casualty, a U.N. Peacekeeper, was shot and killed by rioters in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, according to ABC News.

The food crisis in Haiti threatens the country’s stability according to a report released by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Haiti already faces severe poverty issues without the added pressure of rising food prices. Around 80 percent of the countries population lives on $2 a day. Sophomore Elissa Hachmeister, who spent spring break in Haiti on a volunteer trip, was shocked by the poverty she saw while there.

“The capital city, even in the nicer parts of Port-au-Prince where we stayed, the basic infrastructure was still underdeveloped,” Hachmeister said. “There were huge concerns about water supply and contamination, horrible roads. Because of the poverty, hunger always seemed to be a concern in Haiti.”

Haiti is racked by high inflation and a large trade deficit; 80 percent of Haitians live beneath the poverty line and another 45 percent live in abject poverty.

Junior John Rock, who also visited Haiti over spring break on the same volunteer trip, was shocked by the price of food.

“The price of food in Haitian supermarkets is more expensive than in American supermarkets,” Rock said.

Hachmeister was equally stunned by the price of food in Haiti.

“It’s disturbing when the average yearly income in Haiti is only $270, but the price of food isn’t too dissimilar from the price of food at home,” Hachmeister said.

Food riots have been occurring outside of Haiti, in countries including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia. The food riots are all directly related to the increase in food prices, the result of an increased demand for food and poor weather which has led to crop failure.

Rice producing countries, such as Egypt and India, have placed restrictions on exporting rice.

However, unlike in Egypt, India’s food prices are still relatively low.

“Food is cheap in India,” said senior Rohit Gandhi. “But inflation is a concern, food is not as cheap as it was a year ago, but it’s still cheaper than food in America.”

In Haiti, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, who has not condoned the violence, called for an end to rioting, and Haitian President Rene Preval responded by saying food riots are “not going to solve the problem,” according to BBC News.

In response to the rioting, the Haitian government has made attempts to cut rising food prices including food aid, according to BBC News.

President Preval cut the cost of a 50 pound bag of rice from $51 to $43, a 15.7 percent price reduction. However, the government will not cut food taxes, explaining that lower taxes would be fiscally impossible, according to BBC News.

According to BBC News, Haitian senators are worried that Preval’s proposal will not help the country in the short-run. Believing the action “too little, too late,” and seeking a new Prime Minister to replace Jacques Edouard Alexis.

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