"Many factors are contributing to the rise, but the biggest is runaway demand. In recent years, the world’s developing countries have been growing about 7 percent a year, an unusually rapid rate by historical standards.
"The high growth rate means hundreds of millions of people are, for the first time, getting access to the basics of life, including a better diet. That jump in demand is helping to drive up the prices of agricultural commodities.
"Farmers the world over are producing flat-out. American agricultural exports are expected to increase 23 percent this year to $101 billion, a record. [And yet] The world’s grain stockpiles have fallen to the lowest levels in decades.
"'Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe,' said Daniel W. Basse of the AgResource Company, a Chicago consultancy. 'But if they do, we’re going to need another two or three globes to grow it all.'
"In contrast to a run-up in the 1990s, investors this time are betting — as they buy and sell contracts for future delivery of food commodities — that scarcity and high prices will last for years. . . .
"The biggest blemish on this winter of joy is that farmers' own costs are rising rapidly. Expenses for the diesel fuel used to run tractors and combines and for the fertilizer essential to modern agriculture have soared. . . .
"[Wheat] prices have more than tripled, partly because of a drought in Australia and bad harvests elsewhere and also because of unslaked global demand for crackers, bread and noodles."
- "A Global Need for Grain that Farms Can't Fill," The New York Times, March 9, 2008
One of the interesting things about this issue is the mental conflict it induces in progressives. On the one hand, we can't exactly say that gains in quality of life in the poorer countries are a bad thing in general, but on the other hand, it does push the overpopulation crisis closer to disastrous collision with the limits of world production capacity.