News You Really Need To See: “Perfect Storm Guts African Food Stocks”

“Perfect Storm Guts African Food Stocks”

The Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2015, p.A14

http://www.wsj.com/articles/severe-droughts-leave-africans-hungry-and-desperate-1443137463

“Ann Alinga points dejectedly to her family’s smallholding of sorghum and sunflower fields, ravaged by Africa’s worst dry spell in two decades.  Like many in this remote village, the mother of five is now plucking wild fruits in a desperate bid to keep her family alive. … In recent seasons, Ms. Alinga harvested nearly a ton of grains, enough to her feed her children and raise extra cash for the family’s other needs.  But the severity of this year’s drought has written off her sunflower crop and destroyed the harvest across this swath of agricultural land in northern Uganda.  The damage to food production is spreading across the continent: From Angola to Zimbabwe, officials say more than 30 million Africans will need help to survive the looming tropical dry season after the worst droughts since 1992 slashed this year’s harvest of such staples as corn, rice and beans by half.  Those farmers and their customers will look to international agencies and their governments for aid.  But this year’s shortages are being aggravated by an incongruous dynamic: Surging economic growth has diminished many nations’ reliance on foreign donors, leaving them more exposed to the ravages of unexpected droughts and storms.  Increasing independence is mostly a good thing, recognition of Africa’s emergence as one of the fastest-growing corners of the global economy.  But the current shortages show that many countries remain too poor and isolated to ramp up imports when times turn tough. … Global market turmoil in recent weeks has sent many African currencies down more than 20% against the U.S. dollar, making imports to the continent more costly than ever.  That is creating liquidity crunches in Angola, Zimbabwe and South Sudan that are hurting official efforts to supplement poor harvests and driving the prices of staples foodstuffs higher.  Staple grain prices have hit five-year highs, according to U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network. … In the past, donors have provided emergency foodstuffs to the hungry in Karamoja, the swath of flat pastoral plains in northeastern Uganda that includes Ms. Alinga’s village, Akuyam.  But this year, foreign donors are focused on the refugee crisis emanating from Syria and Iraq, making it harder to find funding.”

Quickie analysis:  Africans are going hungry because of an economic slowdown in China, war in the Middle East, and climate change amplified by almost-entirely-non-African carbon emissions.  Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

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