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Deadly riots because of high food prices have been raising a lot of media attention lately. From Haiti to Egypt, dramatic increases in world food prices are causing political and economic instability. This has been resulting in social unrest particularly for poor and developing nations.

“Price spikes have been influenced by rising oil prices (costs of fertilizers, transportation, etc), falling food stockpiles, expanding middle-class populations of Asia, subsidies in developed nations (e.g. Corn subsidies in the US), market speculation, climate change and world population.”

In the latest edition of its Food Outlook report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  warned the international community to prepare for harder times ahead unless production of major food crops increases significantly in 2011.

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. At least 13 people died last year in Mozambique in protests against plans to lift bread prices.

“There is still, unfortunately, the potential for grain prices to strengthen on the back of a lot of uncertainty,” Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the FAO, said by phone from Rome today. “If anything goes wrong with the South American crop, there is plenty of room for them to increase.”

Global food production will have to rise 70 percent by 2050 as the world population expands to 9.1 billion people from about 6.8 billion people in 2010, the FAO has said.

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.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family?

First off, plant a garden – New Zealand has by most standards plenty of arable land suitable for growing tomatoes, carrots, radishes, brussel sprouts, herbs, potatoes, etc. Planting a garden can be an inexpensive and fun activity for the whole family. If you’ve never grown a vegetable garden before, there’s plenty of books from the library or websites that will help you know how to grow nutritious food.

Secondly, consider how you will store your freshly grown food – such as a food dehydrator, zip lock bags, freezing, etc. This will ensure the long-life of your supplies. This could be considered your “Food Bank” a place where you store canned goods, dried foods and other essentials that may become much more expensive in the near future. Consider storing salt, peanut butter, cooking oils, sugar, coffee and powered milk.

Thirdly, you could consider selling your unwanted gold jewellery to help fund your emergency food supplies for yourself and your family!