The world's worsening food crisis has finally made the headlines and grim forecasts for the endemic problem are causing widespread panic. We asked our Observers in Cameroon, Indonesia, Haiti and the USA to tell us how they're affected by the crunch.
Dian runs an outdoor restaurant in Jakarta.
However, we won't hold out too long because the price of rice is far from the only in problem in Asia. Most Indonesian dishes contain ground pepper. The price has increased four-fold in two months so that it's now 40,000 rupiah [€2.70] per kilo. For us it's even more important than rice. And then you've got kerosene for cooking the food. Not only has the price per litre shot up from 3,000 rupiah [€20 cents] in January to 8,000 rupiah now, it's become almost impossible to get hold of any. Because of this, we've changed our kerosene fuelled cookers to gas ones. It's expensive, but easier to find. Last January we were making 40% profit. Now we're only making five. And obviously, nobody's had a raise."
Since protests against the high cost of living in February, when a hundred people died, the government decided to stop taxing certain basic foodstuffs (rice, flour and fish etc.). This measure made little difference to poor families, so the authorities then decided to try out a system of fixing prices.
Ibrahim is in charge of Mont Cameroon, a subsidised food produce market situated opposite the central market in Yaoundé.
According to one of our Observers in Yaoundé, Mohamadou Houmfa, the market traders - unhappy with the price controls put in place by the government - are on the point of striking.
Ibrahim's shop in Yaoundé
Lynn is a freelance researcher from Memphis, Tennessee, USA. She earns around $300 - 400 (€200 - 260) per month. The global food crisis has caused spikes in prices for some foods in the US, notably rice and flour, but has not hit US consumers as hard as people in poorer countries. Lynn is feeling the pinch from another commodity: gasoline, the price of which has risen by more than 15% this year. Her blog.
My situation is worse than most people's but there are definitely people who are having to make choices between buying groceries or putting gas in their cars, or make other severe cutbacks and/or changes in order to deal with gas costs right now. I'm hearing of layoffs and inability to find jobs constantly. Anybody who has never really been able to save up money in the past has got to be struggling right now just under the crunch of the gasoline prices alone."