Back in January, when news emerged that food prices had reached a new record high, many analysts were relatively sanguine about the rise. As I noted in a Global Dashboard post on 6 January, the new price spike was largely driven by meat, sugar and vegetable oils, rather than, as in 2008, staples like wheat or rice.
Governments weren't sliding into panic measures – unlike in 2008, when over 30 of them imposed export bans, forcing prices still higher. And while the 2008 spike was marked by protests in 61 countries (with violent unrest in 23 of them), that didn't seem to be happening this time around. How things can change in a month. No sooner had I published that post than Algeria erupted in rioting over high food prices – and while food prices weren't the cause of recent events seen in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, they have certainly formed part of the backdrop.
Panic measures by governments are back in the news too, as Middle Eastern and North African governments frantically try to rebuild national food stocks as a defence against high prices and civil unrest.