Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is anyone paying attention?

Sometimes there are things that are happening that I personally believe deserves more coverage than if Britney Spears got her restraining order extended. So many people are affected by this yet so many decide to spend their lives on things that really don't matter. I understand that when things are crazy people like to surround themselves with fluff but ignoring pressing issues does not make them go away. Anyway, this coverage about food supply is taken from the New York Times. You can find the complete article by clicking this link. - a Thnker

A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice

Published: April 17, 2008

DENILIQUIN, Australia — Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of this dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of oversized silos and sheds — beige, gray and now empty — from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Drought affects every agricultural industry based here, not just rice — from sheepherding, the other mainstay in this dusty land, to the cultivation of wine grapes, the fastest-growing crop here, with that expansion often coming at the expense of rice.

The drought’s effect on rice has produced the greatest impact on the rest of the world, so far. It is one factor contributing to skyrocketing prices, and many scientists believe it is among the earliest signs that a warming planet is starting to affect food production.

It is difficult to definitely link short-term changes in weather to long-term climate change, but the unusually severe drought is consistent with what climatologists predict will be a problem of increasing frequency.

Indeed, the chief executive of the National Farmers’ Federation in Australia, Ben Fargher, says, “Climate change is potentially the biggest risk to Australian agriculture.”