Nearly 80 percent of the [United States'] corn crops and over 11 percent of its soybean crops-which are major exports for the U.S. and an important source of animal feed-have been affected. Last month, soybean and corn prices were at record-breaking highs. Poor weather conditions in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine are also inflating global wheat prices; these countries typically produce around one-quarter of the world's wheat exports. The U.S. itself exports more wheat, corn, and soybeans than any other country.
While high food prices are devastating for importing countries that are already deeply food insecure, they can also be economically destabilizing for lower- and middle-income countries with big populations that import large amounts of food. Around the world, shortages and price spikes of everyday goods can throw societies into unrest and conflict. The current spike in food prices begs comparisons with other recent rises in food price that led to widespread protests. In 2008, high food prices incited protests and turmoil in a variety of countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Arguably, food prices were one precipitating factor of the Arab Spring; in a report about the phenomenon, The Economist notes that in Egypt, local food prices increased by 37 percent from 2008 to 2010. The New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) has also done important work on the numerically demonstrable link between food crises and political instability in the MENA region, even "identify[ing] a specific food price threshold above which protests become likely."
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