Chart: What Food Prices Have to Do With Egypt's Protests

World food prices appear to be surging and that could be playing a role in North Africa's ongoing turmoil.

What does food have to do with the ongoing unrest and protests across the Arab world?

Well, NPR looked at the Food and Agriculture Organization's most recent global food price index, which measures the average price of commodities between 2002 and 2004 (shown as the baseline value of 100 above). The index suggests that the dramatic rise in staples like rice, wheat, and maize could be fueling discontent.

What's interesting is that towards the end of 2010 (the orange line), the FAO's Food Price Index rose to its highest since June 2008 (the red line), which, coincidentally, marks the summer that Egypt's problems with imported wheat, government subsidies, and stagnant wages came to a head.

While I haven't heard specific evidence pinpointing wheat shortages or bread lines as the cause of protests this time around, one unnamed CEO told Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:

People are starving and hungry.... It's a revolution driven by hunger as much as anything else.... They're desperate, and they have nothing left to lose.


It's certainly not the first time food shortages sparked revolution, and if history serves us correctly, it probably won't be the last time either.

Chart: Nelson Hsu/NPR. Chart data via FOA.