As the 'financialization' of every commodity of earth continues at pace, and easy money pores out of almost every major central bank, we have now reached the point where food prices have surpassed the record levels of 2008.  [Feb 12, 2008: Wheat is Being Ruined by ... what else... Hedge Funds and Speculators] [Apr 28, 2008: Wall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin] [Apr 6, 2008: Agflation Hits Rice - Prices Up 50% in 2 Weeks]   What happened back then?  Just some minor issues such as rioting in many '2nd' and '3rd' world countries.  Looks like we need to prepare for another hot summer.  And domestically those food stamps are not going to go quite so far as they used to.  [Nov 10, 2009: Walmart Executive - There are Families Not Eating at the End of the Month]  

Oh well, just consider it collateral damage in The Bernank's plan to make us (and Goldman, JPMorgan, et al) all rich via asset inflation.   (I will stop by some local food banks to let them know they can make some mad money in the markets to offset the rising prices)  Just remember to blame it all on China - that was a great excuse back in 08, even though we saw once leverage was taken out of the financial system prices of commodities suddenly crashed.  This repeating epidemic has no relationship at all with financial speculation at all.  Nope.

On a related note - a tip of the hat to Congress for the recent ethanol funding expansion, snuck in in the lame duck.  If there is one thing that makes sense when we have the potential for global food crisis, it is putting inefficient corn in our cars.  [Mar 27, 2008: WSJ - Farm Lobby Beats Back Assault on Subsidies]  The main saving grace at this time is rice, which is massively important in the East.  Too bad their is not a rice ETF or else speculators with Ben's easy money supply and demand dynamics could push it up much more quickly.

Via Bloomberg:

  • World food prices rose to a record in December on higher sugar, grain and oilseed costs, the United Nations said, exceeding levels reached in 2008 that sparked deadly riots from Haiti to Egypt.  
  • An index of 55 food commodities tracked by the Food and Argiculture Organizartion gained for a sixth month to 214.7 points, above the previous all-time high of 213.5 in June 2008, the Rome-based UN agency said in a monthly report. The gauges for sugar and meat prices advanced to records.
  • Sugar climbed for a third year in a row in 2010, and corn jumped the most in four years in Chicago. Food prices may rise more unless the world grain crop increases “significantly” in 2011, the FAO said Nov. 17. 

  • Last month’s year-on-year rise compares with the 43 percent jump in food costs in June 2008. Record fuel prices, weather- related crop problems, increasing demand from the growing Indian and Chinese middle classes, and the push to grow corn for ethanol fuel all contributed to the crisis that year.
  • In 2008 we had rapid increases in petroleum prices, fertilizer prices and other inputs,” Abbassian said. “So far, those increases have been rather constrained. It doesn’t really reduce the fear about what could be in store in the coming weeks or months.”
  • In response to the 2008 crisis, countries from India and Egypt to Vietnam and Indonesia banned exports of rice, a staple for half the world. Skyrocketing food prices sparked protests and riots in almost three dozen poor nations including Haiti, Somalia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
  • Rough rice last traded at $13.90 per 100 pounds in Chicago, compared with $20.21 at the end of June 2008.

“If you want to see the index as a barometer of food crisis, I’m not so sure this is the right thing to do,” Abbassian said. “In the previous episode, really the main driver in food commodities was cereals. This time around, look at sugar and oilseeds.”

Grain Inventories

Compared with 2007-2008, many poor countries had “good or above-average” cereal harvests last year, the economist said. Production problems took place in grain-exporting countries, and “supply at hand should be adequate,” he said.

The FAO’s gauge for sugar prices reached 398.4 points last month, increasing from 373.4 in November. The meat-price index rose to 142.2 points from 141.5.

The agency’s cereal-price index jumped to 237.6 points in December, the highest level since August 2008, from 223.3 the previous month. The indicator for cooking oils advanced to 263 points, the highest since July 2008, from 243.3. The index for dairy prices rose to 208.4 points from 207.8.

Global grain output will have to rise at least 2 percent this year to meet demand in 2011-2012 and avoid further depletion of stocks, the UN agency has said.

The basis for the FAO index is 2002-04. The gauge includes commodity quotations that the agency considers representative for international food prices.

“The real uncertainty and problem is the 2011-2012 market,” Abbassian said. “We are at a very high level. If it’s further up than this, then you really begin to be concerned.”