Famine: The other F word

Jack H. Barnes
Confessions of a Macro Contrarian
Business Insider

The world is closer to a major famine today than it has been in decades.  In the current era, there have been smaller cases of famine in the world such as Niger in ‘05 and again in 2010.  The western African region is exposed to drought-based famines on a fairly regular basis.

The changing weather patterns from El Nino to La Nina in the Pacific, however, have been the primary driver for this round as rain patterns change due to a cooling or heating of the mid Pacific.

The rains occurring in normally dry Australia and droughts in locations like China were, in the past, linked to a La Nina phase.  We have moved from a El Nino 2010 into a La Nina 2011.  The current La Nina is a deep one with no sign of it ready to end yet.

China has documented history of over 1,800 famines (nearly 1 per year) over the past 2000 years.  The four famines of 1810, 1811, 1846 & 1849 are reported to have killed no fewer than 45 million people in China over a 39-year period.

The largest famine in modern times was the Chinese famine of 1958 – 1961, during the “Great Leap Forward” period in China.  The death total is estimated to have been between 36 to 45 million people with an estimated additional 30 million canceled or delayed births.

The use of modern technology and fertilizers, along with growing scales of economy has helped to lower the risk of a global famine. The world has not faced a real significant famine event in decades.

This brings us to today…

The article continues at the Business Insider.

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