The Arab World is catching up on the globally warm issues: In its weekly section "Oil in a Week", Al Hayat today ran an article about how agrofuel production is causing an inflation of the prices of foodstuff. The article had nothing new to offer (see previous posts on this blog for complete briefings on the issue of agro fuels) and included no analysis whatsoever, and no mention of the impact of this price increase on food and farming in the Arab World. But its alays a good thing to have as background material in an broad circulation Arabic daily. Its a pity that the editor does not really integrate information because it would really be interesting:
In the same issue (sunday July 15) Al Hayat also ran a couple of small pieces (not available online) about the price increase of wheat, resulting in the prices of bread and pasta shooting skywards (but without mentionning the AW). The price hike is attributed to climatic conditions (drought) and to the demand on agro fuel. This has resulted in the increase of the price of the loaf of bread in Britain by 30-40% during the course of the past year. The largest pasta makers in the world, Barilla, decided they will increase their prices next fall. This could of course have dramatic consequences for many countries, like Lebanon, where the country is only 25% self sufficient in bread flour, and worse for Egypt, which has recently adopted pasta instead of rice as the staple for its army. Dont laugh, you're talking about feeding hundreds of thousands daily.
Just under this small brief, in the same issue, is an even smaller piece of news: Tunis increases its wheat imports by 19% in the first quarter of the past year. The wheat will be used to manufacture...pasta for export to African countries. Wonder how the wheat price hike will affect the newly establishd Tunisian food industry.
...and in the Arabian Gulf, low catches this year have resulted in a 25% increase in the price of local fish. The article blames the Gulf war and rampant urbanization and the destruction of coastal habitat due to the creation of artificial lands, such as the Palm in Dubai and many, many others, for the decrease in fish stocks. I'm sure the Gulf war affected the fish population, but fishermen in Bahrain will tell you (as they told me) that the royal family owns all the lands on the coast, and that they detroyed all the mangrove swamps to erect huge complexes (in the Freudian sense). The mangrove swamps are where fish lay their eggs and fish babies grow sheltered from predators by the web of mangrove roots. The construction started 15 years ago and intensified 10 years ago, and we are now seeing the resulting decline in the stocks. That's about the time it takes for the impact on populations to be felt.