Rising global demand is pushing prices for grain and other crops to record heights and dramatically altering the food landscape for both farmers and consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports. Unlike ordinary price hikes, caused by crop failures, these increases—corn up 40%, soybeans 75%, wheat 70%—could last 10 years. "The days of cheap grain are gone," says one analyst.
Prices are being driven up by burgeoning economies in China and Latin America, and policies encouraging use of crops as alternative energy sources. Worldwide, more grain was consumed in each of the last two years than was grown; the result is stockpiles that are lower, relative to demand, than any time since the 1970. While American consumers will feel the pain at the grocery story, the real losers could be the world's poor. “My major concern is that we will lose ground against hunger," said a United Nations official.