Food riot

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Food riots may occur when there is a shortage and/or unequal distribution of food. Causes can be food price rises, harvest failures, incompetent food storage, transport problems, food speculation, hoarding, poisoning of food, or attacks by pests.[1] Hence, the pathway between food related issues such as crop failure, price hike or volatility and an actual “riot” is often complex.[2] Some argue that volatile and high food price are just part of a “perfect storm” combining with climate change, population growth, resource scarcity, and urbanization leading to social unrest.[3] [4] When the public becomes too desperate in such conditions, they may attack shops, farms, homes, or government buildings to attain bread or other staple foods such as grain or salt, as in the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots.[5] Often, it is more than an issue of hunger and the need to obtain bread for immediate caloric satisfaction, food riots are part of a larger social movement, such as the Russian revolution or the French revolution. Thus in places with low political freedom there is an increased likelihood for social unrest when food prices are volatile or suddenly rise.[6] Historically, women have been heavily involved in leading food riots; food riots have thus served as a form of female political action even in societies without women's suffrage or other guaranteed political rights.[7]

Twenty-first century

During the period 2007-2008, a rise in global food prices led to riots in various countries. A similar crisis recurred in 2010-2011.

Due to a wheat crop failure in the mid-western United States due to drought in 2012, as well as simultaneous dryness during the start of the Russia's wheat season, a deficient monsoon rainfall in India and a drought in Africa's Sahel region, prediction were made for a possible outbreak of protests and riots akin to previous years. Yaneer Bar-Yam, the president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, said that computer modelling suggested an outbreak of instability, while he also blamed the use of corn for ethanol as exacerbating the problem. However, the director of trade and markets and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, David Hallam, said that there was no imminent danger of such an outcome, though a worsening change in climate and government policies, such as export bans and panicked-buying, could trigger such a scenario. Oxfam added that a one percent increase in the price of food could lead to 16 million more falling below the poverty line.[8] The International Food Policy Research Institute's Director-General Shenggen Fan suggested a global crisis could "hit us very soon. [Using corn for ethanol] actually pushed global food prices higher and many poor people, particularly women and children, have suffered."[9]

Reports of events leading to the 2007–08 world food price crisis and the 2010–11 global food crisis illustrate that it is challenging to find a single causal factor for food riots and highlights the need to multiple pre-emptive strategies to be adopted in different context given that food prices are said to remain volatile[10] in the coming years. International commentators focusing on Africa have associated the riots with poverty and hunger hence the call to explore strategies to boost productivity and lower food prices.[11] Yet on the ground reports highlight that the riots were driven by multiple factors coming together such as popular dissatisfaction with socioeconomic and political situation of the country and the availability of social media that helped rioters to mobilize.[12]In this case some have called for broader structural changes to improve employment, equality and address social injustices. [13]

See also


  1. Patel, Raj; Philip McMichael (2009). "A Political Economy of the Food Riot". Review (Fernand Braudel Center). 32 (1). Retrieved 3 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Sneyd, Lauren; Alexander Legwegoh; Evan DG Fraser (2013). "Food riots: Media perspectives on the causes of food protest in Africa". Food security. 5 (4): 485-497. doi:10.1007/s12571-013-0272-x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Godfray, H. Charles J (2010). "The future of the global food system". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 365 (1554). doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0180. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. BBC News (19 March 2009). "Global crisis 'to strike by 2030'". BBC News UK. Retrieved 3 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Egypt battle toll: 43 dead". The Age. 1977-01-21. Retrieved 25 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Walton, John K.,, John K.,; David Seddon (2008). Free markets and food riots: The politics of global adjustment. Cambridge MA: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-631-18245-4.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Thompson, E.P. (1993). Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Political Culture. New York: The New Press. pp. 233–234.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Robert Kennedy. "Food riots predicted over US crop failure - Features". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2013-05-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ann, Luzi (2012-08-14). "Global Food Crisis May Hit Us 'Very Soon,' IFPRI's Fan Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-05-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. UNNews Centre. "Global food prices expected to remain volatile in coming years, warns UN official". UN News Centre. Retrieved 3 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. UN. "The Secretary General's High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis". UN. Retrieved 3 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Sneyd, Lauren; Alexander Legwegoh; Evan DG Fraser (2013). "Food riots: Media perspectives on the causes of food protest in Africa". Food security. 5 (4): 485-497. doi:10.1007/s12571-013-0272-x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Demeke, M., et al.,. "Country responses to the food security crisis: Nature and preliminary implications of the policies pursued" (PDF). FAO, Rome (Italy). Policy Assistance and Resources Mobilisation Div. Retrieved 3 March 2014.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Bush, Ray (2010). "Food Riots: Poverty, Power and Protest". Journal of Agrarian Change. 10 (1): 119–129. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0366.2009.00253.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Natalini, Davide (2015). "Quantitative Assessment of Political Fragility Indices and Food Prices as Indicators of Food Riots in Countries". Sustainability. 7 (4): 4360-4385<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>