Showing posts tagged commodities

Pattern Recognition - Food Crisis News - June 22, 2011

It’s been a month or so since I did an environmental scan on food prices, shortages, and commodities.  Let’s see if anything has changed.

Ummm, nope.

Food Prices will remain high

Agencies See Decade of High Food Prices- June 17, 2011

LONDON—Food prices will be up to 30% higher on average over the next decade as slowing grains production fails to keep pace with rising demand, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Friday.

High Food Prices Here To Stay - June 17, 2011

The report predicts that prices will be 20 percent higher for cereals and up to 30 percent higher for meat in the coming decade compared to the past ten years.

It will specifically hit poor people who now already spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. “People are going be forced, either to literally eat less, or find other sources of income,” Gurria said.

Record prices linked to bio-fuels…yet again - June 17, 2011

The biofuels industry is being blamed for record food prices and high price volatility. Earlier this month a report from the World Trade Organization and other international agencies recommended that governments cut support for biofuels to ease that volatility. On the heels of that report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its corn forecast; it suggested that corn supplies will be very tight this year because bad weather has limited planting and because the share of corn going to ethanol is increasing. After the report, corn prices shot to record highs, reaching $8 a bushel. Then on Friday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report predicting that food prices will remain high for the next decade.

Many experts say the unprecedented prices are at least partially driven by government subsidies and mandates that have led to fourfold increases in production of ethanol biofuel and tenfold increases in production of biodiesel between 2000 and 2009 worldwide.

Governments scramble for solutions

Volatile Food Prices Grab G-20’s Full Attention - June 22, 2011

David Nabarro, a food security expert with the United Nations, says that for decades governments thought they didn’t have to worry about agriculture, because prices stayed even or dropped. But 2008 changed all that.

"Food became an issue that was of central political importance to presidents [and] heads of governments," Nabarro says. "In addition, we found that food production systems were getting intertwined with environmental issues and climate change. So food and agriculture has now become a big political issue."

Food Reserves Could Come Back Into Vogue- June 16, 2011

Facing increasing hunger, market unpredictability, and food price volatility, world leaders have shown interest to resuming the practice of food stores.

At the G-20 meeting last month in Rome, leaders discussed developing an emergency reserve system, aimed at servicing the most vulnerable countries.

Uganda struggles with plans to reduce inflation and food shortage - June 16, 2011

IMPLEMENTATION of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Agriculture Sector Investment Plan will not solve food shortage, low income and inflation. To deal with inflation, you need to stabilise agricultural supply and control food prices.

Studies on Uganda’s food supply predict a food deficit by 2030. Countries that experience food insecurity experience high levels of poverty.

U.S. Agency for International Development hosts 300 researchers for “Feed the Future” forum - June 22, 2011

Is this a food crisis? Are we in a crisis?

SHAH (Administrator of USAID): It’s absolutely a precarious situation. We know that food security is critical to our national security, and I will build on David’s point and suggest that the food riots and famines and failed states that are the consequences of a lack of access to food are far more costly and problematic to deal with over time than making smart targeted investments and helping countries develop their agricultural systems, become real trading partners and move big huge proportions of their population out of a condition of poverty and hunger.

Climate Change continues to wreak havoc with crop production

China food prices spike as floods ruin farmland - June 20, 2011

(Reuters) - Torrential rain across southern and eastern China which has killed more than 100 people and triggered the evacuation of half a million has left large areas of farmland devastated as food prices surge, state media said on Sunday.

KENYA: Severe drought, high food prices hit pastoralists - June 16, 2011

NAIROBI, (IRIN) - Successive poor rains coupled with rising food and fuel prices are leading to a worsening food security situation with alarming levels of acute malnutrition being recorded in drought affected parts of Kenya, mainly in the north of the country, say experts.

Extreme weather moves on to agenda at the 21st World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM)- June 17, 2011

the 21st World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM), to be held in Toronto Sunday, June 19, through Wednesday.

Nearly 1,500 government officials, scientists and businesspeople from 40 different countries will participate.

Top of mind will be the expected world food crisis that all this extreme weather is already causing, driving harvests down and prices up to record levels.

“When the major networks become weather networks, and when other news becomes sort of secondary, we are facing disaster,” says Lester Brown, founder and president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, who will be the WCDM’s opening speaker. “When you have a lot of local disasters, droughts and floods and heat waves as we’re now having, reducing the food supply, then you have a global disaster.”

Extreme Circumstances require Extreme Measures?

Long held rumors of North Korean cannibalism sparked by food shortages appear to have been confirmed:

Leaked North Korean files reveal citizens selling human flesh for food -  June 19, 2011

Notably, five cases related to cannibalism were also included in the manual. Stories about starving North Koreans eating human flesh have been considered rumors, but recent discoveries in the manual may prove otherwise, triggering more speculations about the food shortage crisis in North Korea.

One case involved a guard named Lee Man-sung, who killed his roommate with an axe when he was sleeping, ate part of the corpse and then sold the rest on the market describing it as lamb meat.

But WAIT, there’s good news. Corporate funded Japanese scientists may have found a solution. 

Let’s feed them “shit burgers”. There’s never any shortage of feces right?

Japan scientist synthesizes meat from human feces - June 15, 2011

Japanese scientists have actually discovered a way to create edible steaks from human feces.

Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory, has developed steaks based on proteins from human excrement. Tokyo Sewage approached the scientist because of an overabundance of sewage mud. They asked him to explore the possible uses of the sewage and Ikeda found that the mud contained a great deal of protein because of all the bacteria.

The researchers then extracted those proteins, combined them with a reaction enhancer and put it in an exploder which created the artificial steak. The “meat” is 63% proteins, 25% carbohydrates, 3% lipids and 9% minerals. The researchers color the poop meat red with food coloring and enhance the flavor with soy protein. Initial tests have people saying it even tastes like beef.

That’s it folks. North Koreans are resorting to eating each other and “Big Sewage” seriously wants to feed us our own shit. Mission accomplished.


Soaring food prices to dent Asia’s growth

Soaring food and fuel prices are threatening to derail growth in Asian economies, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The bank has warned that if food and fuel prices continue to surge, economic growth in the region could be reduced by up to 1.5% this year.

According to the bank, domestic food prices have risen at an average of 10% in many Asian economies this year.

Oil prices have also surged because of the crisis in the Middle East.

The bank said that a combination of these two factors has been a major setback for growth in Asian economies.   Source


Price increases of up to 7% on commodities such as toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, garbage bags

Get used to it. This is just the beginning. If you remember, the same thing happened back in 2008 when P&G raised prices by up to 16%.  

Procter & Gamble Co. last week notified U.S. retailers that it was raising wholesale prices on Pampers diapers and baby wipes, Charmin toilet tissue and Bounty paper towels, a company spokesman said Monday.

The wholesale price increases amount to 7% for Pampers diapers, 3% for Pampers baby wipes and an average increase of 5% for Bounty and Charmin products.

The price increases come in the wake of rival Kimberly-Clark Corp. on Monday saying it was raising prices on most of the products it sells in North America as it faces higher costs for key materials like wood pulp and fuel. Last month, Kimberly-Clark announced price increases on items like Huggies diapers and Cottenelle bathroom tissue.  Source

Kimberly-Clark reported Monday that a bigger-than-expected rise in the cost of raw materials took a toll on first-quarter profit, which fell 9% to $350 million, or 86 cents a share, from $384 million, or 92 cents a share, a year earlier, even as net sales increased 4% to $5 billion.

The Dallas-based company, which also makes Kleenex tissues, said cost increases for raw materials like wood pulp, resins and fuel are likely to run twice as high this year as previously projected. It said it needs to raise prices in response.

Clorox Co., which reports next week, says it is raising the price of Glad trash bags by 9.5% beginning in May. The cost of some of its salad products, like Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix, will also rise.

Shoppers and investors will be watching for similar moves from Colgate-Palmolive Co.,Unilever PLC and Energizer Holdings Inc., which report results this week.

Consumers already are absorbing higher costs for food and gasoline. And price tags are also forecast to begin rising for apparel, reflecting rocketing cotton costs. U.S. consumer prices rose 2.7% in March from a year earlier, the largest increase since December 2009.

"When you look across almost every category out there you are seeing the impact of higher commodity costs show up and higher selling prices for everything," Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk said on a conference call to discuss quarterly results Monday.


CHICAGO, March 18 2011 (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co will raise U.S. detergent prices by 4.5 percent in June as the world’s largest household products maker starts to respond to rising costs for materials, packaging and transportation.

 The maker of Tide, Gain and Era laundry detergents said the increase would go into effect on June 6.  Source

What you see here is the manufacturers raising prices on things they know people have to have and are less likely to buy generic.  This is just the beginning of commodities price increases. Stock up while you can or BUY GENERIC.

Shoppers are less likely to switch to a cheaper brand on a baby product than many other items on the shopping list, according to a recent survey by Sanford Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj. Just 10% of consumers said they switched to a cheaper diaper brand because “it’s not worth paying more in this category,” and no consumers reported switching baby food. By comparison, nearly a third of consumers said they switched brands of bleach, bottled water and liquid soap.

Jacking up prices carries marketing risks, even for diapers. Premium brands face intense competition from less-expensive options, especially private-label brands, which gained market share during the recession. Nevertheless, many parents, especially new ones, are willing to splurge on babies even when cutting back elsewhere, believing pricier products are better for comfort or development.



Pattern Recognition: Food Crisis Round-up - late April 2011

Food riots over rising prices in Uganda grow more violent

Kenya, DarfurZambiaAfghanistan, Yemen, Guatemala, Papua, and Ghana, just to name a few, continue to wrestle with food shortage and rising food and fuel costs.

Soaring food prices will be expensive for rich countries

The combination of rising gasoline prices and the steepest increase in the cost of food in a generation is threatening to push the US economy into a recession. Source

Japan’s food crisis goes beyond recent panic buying

Spiking food prices have pushed the world’s poor countries to “one shock away from a full-blown crisis,” the head of the World Bank warned Saturday. Source

A dollar plumbing three-year lows is hitting Americans squarely in the gas tank, and one economist thinks it could drive prices as high as $6 a gallon or more by summertime under the right conditions. Source

McDonald’s Corp forecast higher prices for beef, dairy and other items and said it would cautiously raise prices to keep attracting diners, who are grappling with higher grocery and gas bills. Source

Global sugar inventories are at a two-decade lows and grain production has fallen short of supply for the past seven seasons out of 11. Source

Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, said, “Of particular concern is food prices. This is the biggest threat today to the world’s poor, where we risk losing a generation. We are one shock away from a full-grown crisis. The financial crisis taught us that prevention is better than cure. We cannot afford to forget that lesson.” Source

The World Bank, whose primary responsibility is to support the poorest economies worldwide, said that wheat and maize prices had soared by 69 and 74% respectively over the past year – pushing to crisis levels the cost of living for the poorest on the planet. Source

The Outlook on the food shortage from Purdue University agriculture economics professor Chris Hurt at the Food News Seminar in Charleston SC:

The United States plays a huge role in the food supply. “We are the biggest country feeding the rest of the world,” Hurt said. “Corn is our largest crop, soybeans the second, wheat third. We are the largest supplier of cotton and rice. It’s dramatic the production base we have built up to sustain the rest of the world.”

Besides the 21.2 million acres of U.S. corn that now are used for ethanol production, 20 million acres of U.S. soybeans are going to China, and Russia’s wheat production is declining.

There’s no surplus or inventory of these commodities in the world anymore,” Hurt said. “That’s a big part of our food system.”

The USDA estimates global food prices rose 25 percent last year and set a record in February.

Hurt said U.S. prices for pork are up 6 percent to 7 percent, and estimated it will go to 9 percent this year. Beef, veal and seafood prices are up 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent; poultry has risen 2.5 percent to 3.4 percent; and fruits and vegetables are up 3 percent to 4 percent.

He said in the past 11 years, there were seven years when the world wasn’t able to grow enough food to feed itself. This might be surprising to many U.S. families whose cupboards and refrigerators are full of food. Source

China Crops in Short Supply as Fewer Farms Spur Food Prices

Flooding in southern Manitoba, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, will have impact on world food supply. Source

"We tend to feel we’re insulated from the food riots," she said, referring to recent events in India, Haiti and several African nations. "Most of the food we grow is exported around the world. We eat very little of what we produce."

Even in a nightmare scenario, Manitoba is no danger of losing its ability to feed itself. A handful of large grain and vegetable farms could feed all 1.2 million people in the province, Doucette said.

But Manitoba’s ability to help feed the world is diminished when farmers quit the business, as thousands have in recent decades. Manitoba lost 2,023 of its 21,071 farms between 2001 and 2006, the year of the most recent Canadian census, a drop of 9.6 per cent over five years.

"It’s easy to become complacent about going to Safeway and Superstore and Sobey’s and buying all your groceries," he said. "You take your ability to produce food locally for granted when the shelves are full."  Source

Time to think seriously about……Food Storage — Not Just for Natural Disasters


Commodities Food Price Index from Sept. 2010 - Feb 2011.

The prices of commodities such as corn, wheat, sugar, coffee, etc.


Screenshot taken 04/06/2011

Food Crisis continues in light of growing populations and supply deficit

I honestly can’t summarize all of the news about the global food crisis effectively. I could easily do a daily massive link dump and not fully capture the stories of hunger and food shortages worldwide. Before you argue that hunger has always been a problem, let me tell you that it has gotten worse. Much worse.

Australia has been hit especially hard as a result of the massive flooding which had a huge impact on it’s crop production and exports of wheat and sugar. 

FOOD security will be the greatest challenge to civilisation this century, with shortages leading to higher prices, political instability and mass migration, warn scientists, farmers and academics.

A policy summit in Melbourne this week will be told that that while Australian farms are capable of feeding the nation until it more than doubles in population, agricultural productivity is in decline and the effects of a looming food crisis overseas are already being felt in rising grocery costs.

Sharp rises in food prices in 2008 and 2010 demonstrated that supplies were no longer keeping up with demand, said Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine, who will address the summit on food challenges.

But the ramifications of the problem were even starker overseas. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt had fallen as a result of riots propelled by food protests.

Those type of upheavals would inevitably affect Australia through increased immigration and regional instability unless it invested in research and innovation to increase global food production.

Read the full article at Sydney Morning Herald

But this is not just an Australian problem. It will affect us all.

According to the United Nations, the world’s population is expected to grow 35 percent in the next 40 years. The global population is increasing by 210,000 people per day, and is expected to stabilize at 9 billion people by that year. That’s an increase of 2.5 billion people, or, the equivalent of another two Chinas.

It isn’t over. The UN food agency recently announced that a drought was threatening the wheat crop in China, the world’s largest wheat producer. In addition, droughts in Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Europe, coupled with bad weather in the United States, Canada and Australia are ransacking global grain inventories. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture already expects the world supply of grain to decrease by 2.2 percent this year.

Read more at the News Messenger

Meanwhile, in America, statistics show that hunger, which is now referred to as “food insecurity”, affects even the wealthy now:

Between 7 and 13 percent of people in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.’s, wealthiest suburbs are unsure where they will get their next meal, according to a national report that has surprised some nonprofit groups that feed the hungry.

“This data is eye-opening for us, because it not only tells us where people in need of our services are, but it paints a totally different demographic picture of who it was we thought who we were serving,” said Deborah Flateman, CEO of the Maryland Food Bank, who is also on the board of Feeding America. “We might really need to look at the suburbs.”

A total of 651,370 people, or 11.6 percent of Maryland’s population, is “food insecure,” a term Feeding America researchers give to those who have limited access to nutritious foods.

Read the full story

Stay tuned, the next decade is going to be an interesting one.


Food Price Comparisons Around the World - Wallet

Click through the gallery after the jump to see more comparisons.

1 lb. Ground Beef

Sample of U.S. Prices:
Portland, Ore.: $2.79
Little Rock, Ark.: $3.10
Los Angeles, Calif.: $5.29

Sample of World Prices:
Canada: $3.07
Germany: $4.93
Australia: $5.75
Belgium: $6.06
South Africa: $7.04
London: $9.03
Paris: $11.20
Taiwan: $11.50


Now is the time to profit from Hunger

I’m not going to act like I’m a Pollyanna who thinks that the ideal world will ever be anything close to reality, but here’s what the financial analysts are saying about the global food crisis and rising food costs - “Time to make some money”. 

IndexIQ Chief Executive Adam Patti  said CROP will provide exposure to global small-capitalization companies engaged in the growing agribusiness sector. Because it is an ETF, Patti said, CROP will give investors “a highly liquid, highly transparent, low cost, tax efficient” way to gain exposure to agribusiness’ growing demand for food crops and shrinking supply of them.

“Global supply shortages, changing dietary demands in emerging markets, growing populations and alternative energy production are among the many powerful factors driving global demand and skyrocketing prices for agribusiness products. We believe these trends are likely to persist for the foreseeable future,” Patti said in a statement.

The CROP ETF arrives at an unprecedented time in food history: prices recently soared 3.9% in February, the biggest monthly gain since November 1974, marking the continuation of a trend that many economists expect to hold true for at least the remainder of the year. Meat and dairy prices have been on the rise, reflecting higher prices for the corn and soybeans used in animal feed. Earlier this month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said that world food prices have risen to the highest point since 1990, when the agency first began its food price tracking efforts.

Back in January, legendary investor Jim Rogers confirmed to CNBC that with food shortages coming, now is the time to buy into the food commodities market. As of today, Bloomberg was reporting that Texas was seeing its worst drought in 44 years, with the state’s wheat crop damaged as a result and ranchers forced to reduce cattle herds—a sure sign that food prices will continue to rise.

“In our view, small capitalization companies are best positioned to translate this demand into significant growth,” Patti said. “They are under-represented in other investment options, are typically faster growing and, in many cases, are undervalued relative to mega-cap multi-national companies, making them attractively positioned for growth and for acquisitions by the larger global players. We believe CROP is an efficient vehicle for gaining exposure to this dynamic sector and to these companies worldwide.”


Food Crisis News Round-up - 03/08/2011

Recent Food Crisis News Stories

Rather than reblog every story I come across regarding the growing food crisis, I’ve been trying to compile a list every week or so to make it easier for you to follow the trends and pattern.

Here is the most recent batch of relevant stories. If you buy food and store what you are already eating NOW, if the price increases even 5% you have saved that much money already.

Focus on foods made from grains, meat, coffee, cocoa, and even vegetables.

U.S. too vulnerable to rising oil and food prices

…oil is what we call the “keystone” commodity, meaning higher energy costs translate to higher costs for all other commodities. Unfortunately, demand is strong here as well. According to International Monetary Fund data, in early 2006, global nonfuel commodity prices — such as food and industrial materials — broke free of their post-Cold War trading range, increasing 37% before receding in the Great Recession. Since bottoming out in December 2008, these same essential economic inputs have risen another 78%, for an increase of 149% in the last decade.

Food, in particular, is trading at all-time highs. Corn and soybeans are at near-record prices. Wheat, hit badly last summer by the Russian heat wave, is still trading 30 percent higher, even after fears have eased over a major Chinese drought.

High global food costs, radiating out from drought-stricken Asia, could further destabilize other developing nations, democratic or not, whose populations are upset that their governments are unable to protect them from the disruptive forces of the global marketplace. Here at home, higher basic food and other costs would erode the accounts of middle-class families even more.

Lack of Food could determine Libya’s Future

Food shortages in eastern Libya, the largest rebel-controlled area, have reached dire levels. Fighting has left food stocks depleted and food supply chains in shambles. Around Benghazi, food prices have reportedly risen by 50 to 75 percent. Due to its poor suitability for agriculture, Libya imports the majority of its food, which has become largely impossible since fighting broke out.

Grocery Prices in Canada predicted to rise five to seven percent more by end of 2011

Torontonians will be paying between five and seven per cent more for groceries on average by the end of the year, economists say.

A family that spends about $400 a month on groceries could end up paying up to $340 extra in a year.

Bad crops around the world, oil trading for more than US$100 a barrel and the economic recovery are driving prices higher.

Food companies are raising prices due to the soaring costs of key commodity ingredients like wheat, corn, sugar and vegetable oil, which have gone up as much as 50 to 100 per cent over the last year at a near-record rate.

Crop Prices Feed Inflation of US Food Bills

And it’s not just corn prices that are soaring. Soybeans are moving along with them. Wheat is climbing, too. So is sugar. And coffee. And cocoa. Some experts say they have never seen so many commodity prices so high at once.

"Everything’s high," Agney says, in a booming twang. "Watch the grocery store."

Indeed, analysts and recently released government estimates predict food prices will rise this year, thanks to a tangle of factors, from rising grain prices to monetary policy to oil costs. Prices for U.S. consumers could surpass the spikes of 2008, while the United Nations said Thursday that its global food prices index has reached an all-time high. Food prices, many believe, ignited the pro-democracy unrest rippling through the Middle East and Africa.

Rising food prices could spark riots in the UK, senior economist warns

Karen Ward cautioned that the UK was not immune to the kind of “food riots” seen in other countries around the world.

"Even in the developed world I think we have very, very low wage growth, so people aren’t getting more in their pay packet to compensate them for food and energy, and I think we could see social unrest certainly in parts of the developed world and the UK as well," she told Sky News.

She went on to highlight the link between high food prices and the escalating cost of crude oil.

The comments came as the United Nations warned the cost of food is now at the highest level for 21 years and set to rise further.

Food costs have gone up for eight months in a row, with the UK’s National Farmers Union forecasting the trend will continue for the rest of 2011.

Lebanon Stockpiles Wheat

Lebanon last month issued its first wheat tender in a year, buying 15,000 metric tons of wheat from the U.S. and 7,500 tons from Ukraine, Zaineddin said in a telephone interview today. Last year, Lebanon imported about 400,000 tons of wheat, he said. Governments bought more grain to curb domestic prices and quell rioting that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

“The government plans to issue more wheat tenders this year after the recent rise in wheat prices,” Zaineddin said. “This is meant to provide the local market with subsidized flour and bread.” Lebanon has wheat reserves to meet demand for about five months, he said.

Economists urge Obama not to “Overreact” to Rising Food Costs

Rising food prices have been linked to the unrest that has swept through the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks. In most of the uprisings, calls for greater personal and political freedoms have been accompanied by complaints about unaffordable staple food prices.

Asked by FOX News how they would advise the Obama administration to contend with the spikes – which have as much to do with natural disasters and weather shocks as with human factors – both Hassan Zaman, lead economist at the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Equity Group, and Manuel Hernandez, a postdoctoral fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said they would caution the president not to manipulate food markets with trade policy.

Duke University Expert warns Food Prices may lead to further unrest worldwide

Bellemare’s research focuses on development economics and food policy. He says the cost of food is likely partly responsible for the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and that the unrest will affect food prices worldwide, including the U.S.

“Food prices have not been this high since the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations began publishing its food price index in 1990. In light of the political unrest experienced throughout the world during the summer 2008 spike in food prices, there is good reason to believe that rising food prices may have played an important role in causing the political unrest in Tunisia and in Egypt. Some say that rising fuel prices will cause further increases in food prices in the U.S. and abroad, and further political unrest throughout the world. Climate change, which has an impact on food prices, is also likely to complicate matters.”

Food prices in Britain are rising at three times the rate of the world’s seven biggest economies.

Figures from the OECD put UK food inflation at 6.3 per cent, well ahead of the average of 2.1 per cent for the G7 group of nations.

The cost of putting meals on the table is also rising much faster than most of Europe.

Rising food costs could force U.S. eatery overhaul

Record-high food prices could be the tipping point this year for U.S. restaurants already struggling with high debt loads and tight-fisted consumers.

The economic downturn and drop in consumer spending has sent a handful of restaurant chains — such as Uno Chicago Grill pizza, Fuddruckers and Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse — into bankruptcy court during the past year. And 2011 is not likely to be much better, experts say.

"There are many companies that can absorb an increase in food costs," said Steven Simms, a senior managing director at FTI Consulting who has worked on restaurant restructurings. "For companies that are teetering on the edge though, it’s just one more pressure point that they are going to experience as it relates to profitability and their ability to service debt."

Japan watching rise in food and oil prices

On March 9 and 10, U.N. organizations and Asian developing economies will have an emergency meeting in Bangkok to discuss how to deal with rising food prices. The Asian Development Bank fears that continued political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and rises in the prices of raw materials and foods could intensify inflationary pressure and push down the economic growth of the Asia-Pacific region.

About 60 percent of world oil deposits are in the Gulf coastal areas of the Middle East. For the time being there will be sufficient crude oil and oil products reserves. But if antigovernment protests intensify in oil-producing countries, speculative funds may move to push up crude oil prices.

In the past month, crude oil prices rose some 17 percent. The current level is nearly three times the level of mid-February 2009, five months after the Lehman Brothers financial collapse. Electricity and city gas bills in Japan will rise this month.

Food prices have been also on the rise due to an increase in demand in emerging economies, bad harvests caused by climate changes and inflow of speculative money into markets. The food price index of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization hit 236 in February, with 2002 to 2004 serving as the base years — a record high since statistics were first taken in 1990.

South Korea’s Food Prices Grow Fastest Among OECD Nations

SEOUL, March 9 (Bernama) — South Korea’s food prices grew at the fastest pace in January among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Yonhap news agency said citing a report revealed Wednesday.

According to the report offered by the OECD, South Korea’s food prices jumped 11.6 percent in January from a year earlier, the steepest hike among the 34 member nations of the Paris-based organisation.

Climate Change contributes to rising food prices, political turmoil, and rising fuel prices

Weather extremes are bound to effect crop yields in unpredictable ways.

To this point the food angle on the Mideast protests has been the stuff of newspaper sidebars. But perhaps rising food prices should be understood as the cause, not consequence, of rising oil prices – in which case, the weather story deserves deeper curiosity and more attention than it has been getting.  Bad harvests around the world last year drove nominal wheat prices in Chicago up 74 percent, corn 87 percent. Food prices in the Middle East were already nearing records as the first crowds gathered in Tunis. They have climbed sharply since – 2.2 percent on the UN index in February alone.

Now the crisis in Libya has sent oil prices rising above $100 a barrel, guaranteeing that world food prices will rise still more. World Bank president Robert Zoellick said last month, “The price hike is already pushing millions of people into poverty and putting stress on the most vulnerable, who spend more than half of their income on food.”   Another bad harvest – a drought in China, for example – would affect hundreds of millions more.

'Oil, food prices to eat up two-thirds of $110-bln payroll tax cut'

At a time when households heaved a sigh of relief due to the government’s payroll tax cut decision, the commodity boom is threatening to strike down the gains.

"We estimate that at least two-thirds of the $110bn payroll tax cut will eventually be absorbed by higher prices," Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. The higher prices have played some role in the 0.1 percent month-on-month fall in real consumption in January, Dales noted.

Kenyan rainfall predicted to be low - food and energy prices expected to rise

Household budgets could tighten further in the coming months following forecasts of depressed and poorly distributed rainfall that could dent food and energy production.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) on Tuesday said this year’s long rain season that runs between March and May is expected to be below normal, aggravating the misery in arid and semi-arid areas whose economic activities have already been stymied by inadequate short rains.

“Rainfall distribution within the 2011 long rains season is expected to be generally poor over most part of the country with long dry spells likely to occur,” Joseph Mukabana, director of KMD said.

The effects of depressed rains over the first quarter are already taking a toll on the economy where inflation rose for the fourth straight month in February, to 6.54 per cent year-on-year from 5.42 per cent in January, mainly due to a rise in the cost of food and transport.

Sri Lankan government warns of rising food prices due to natural disasters

Mar 08, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government says that prices of food items are bound to see a sharp increase due to natural disasters experienced around the world.

Food Prices SOAR in Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela

CARACAS, March 8 (BERNAMA-NNN-MERCOPRESSS) — Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina are three Latin American countries where food prices have climbed the most during the twelve months last year.

Official regional statistics data shows that in the twelve months to Jan this year, food prices in Venezuela soared 37.2% (above the country’s inflation of 28%); Bolivia follows with 14% (8.4% inflation) and Argentina 13.1% and 10.6%.

Annual food inflation was almost double the retail price index in Costa Rica, 8.6% and 4.8%; Chile, 5.5% and 2.7% and El Salvador, 6.7% and 2.3%.

However it must be pointed out that in some countries the tendency is for an overall rise in all prices, such is the case of Venezuela and Bolivia, while others have suffered the hike in food prices which then pushed up the average inflation.

In Jan this year, some Latin American countries have managed to contain the increase in food prices such is the case of Chile, Honduras and Nicaragua.