According to my favorite source of information Stratfor, food riots are becoming common and serious. Also, Stratfor makes the highly intuitively correct claim that food shortages cause riots and political instability much faster and more aggresivly than an energy crisis would do.
From their summary:
Thousands of union workers demonstrated in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 17, in part to protest skyrocketing food prices. The recent food riots in Haiti led to the overthrow of that troubled island state’s prime minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis. These are just the latest in an emerging global trend of unrest sparked by high food prices –- specifically, the price of grains. And it is the grain issue that could have the most far-reaching implications.
While it may seem that certain Islamic oil selling nations may be using oil prices as a front for their war on the west, it may well be that should we, especially in North America but also in Europe, choose to, we could overthrow there governments from within merely by stopping exports of grains.
In fact, the question is begged, we see the causes of high food prices but we do not see the causes of actual absences of food. Some make sense. Various exporters holding on to crops for domestic consumption but that doesn’t at all explain many areas where food is not to be had at any price.
Of course really stupid policies like using food for fuel (I really do not think we should do this unless we can adapt to drinking oil directly) have had a large impact on global availability of basic foods. To quote the Soprano’s “Buy land god isn’t making any more of it” and as we are already farming pretty much all the arable land the world has turning food into gas is a remarkably stupid thing to do.
I think observing food riots in the middle east and parts of Asia over the coming summer and the general output of farms will be a strong indicator of stability and hostilities in many nations over the coming year. Perhaps much more so than the cost of fuel.
Again, we find ourselves wishing the global warming alarmists were correct. At least we could claim a few million more acres of farm land.