A trip through your local supermarket will tell you that things have gotten expensive. Yesterday, I was in line at my school’s salad bar, only to notice prices have increased by several dollars.

But here in the United States, we’re fortunate enough to count on certain protections to shield us from devastating food price increases. In the Middle East and parts of Africa, however, people face a significantly different reality.

Sudanese agribusiness

Last year, the global food crisis ripped through much of the Middle East. Skyrocketing prices and staggering crop production left many citizens throughout Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt frantic for food. But the problem of food cost inflation has virtually fallen off the world news radar since the financial crisis has plunged countries further into economic turmoil. But, price hikes continue to have serious impact on families and, despite best attempts to meet the immediate need, the issue of food security remains unresolved.

Oxfam reports that net prices of staple foods have skyrocketed by 150 percent during 2007 and 2008, crippling the impoverished in developing countries. Estimates suggest that the number of malnourished people worldwide has increased by a whopping 119 million.

In the Middle East in particular, food costs soared.  In Egypt for example, the cost of wheat is reported to have tripled. Prices of meat, fruit, and beans in this country have  also increased by 25 percent.

These difficult circumstances left families with little to do but starve or riot for just prices. The New York Times reported last year that violent food protests in Yemen killed up to a dozen people.

Moved by the pressure of an angry, hungry populace, the Arab world has chosen to explore uncharted territory and invest in agriculture in the most unlikely of places–the fertile banks of the White Nile in Southern Sudan. With the help of this foreign investment, the Sudanese government is now plowing $5 billion in new agribusiness, much of which is designated for export to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  So, while crops of pumpkin, beans, eggplant, and other local staples such as sorghum are now producing steadily along the river’s shore, the final product is being exported across the Red Sea rather than addressing domestic food needs in Darfur.

Sudan receives an enormous amount of food aid each year. And yet, Sudan has incredible potential for self-sufficiency. Last year, for example, the country exported the same amount of sorghum as it received from the United States in emergency food aid: 283,000 tons.  Officials from the UN World Food Program go as far to say that Sudan could one day play the role of Africa’s breadbasket.

But the Sudanese government seems to be keen on increasing its own profits at the expense of its own hungry people. It continues to withhold crucial natural resources from 2.5 million displaced citizens, who languish in camps across, run off their land by the government’s harsh counterinsurgency policies. Meanwhile, international foreign aid and humanitarian organizations pick up the bill to keep the innocently displaced alive.

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