The April Food Price Watch report says "Global food prices have increased by 8% in the last four months since December 2011, and in March 2012 were only 6% below their February 2011 historical peak. All key food prices have increased, except for rice."
Cold weather in extreme cold in Europe, the Russian Federation, and other countries is blamed for upward pressure on wheat prices, while hot and dry conditions in South America have affected sugar, maize, and soybeans. There is a little good news in that a slowdown in maize-to-ethanol conversion in the US is helping put a brake on price rises, as is aa lower value for the Euro.Also, record prices in 2010-2011 have encouraged more planting, which should help offset weather/climate induced shortfalls.
The report also points out some dramatic domestic price changes around the world:
Wheat price increases between March 2011 and March 2012 reached 92% in Belarus and 56% in Moldova, while they declined by 30% in El Salvador, 19% in Kyrgyzstan, and 16% in South Africa. The price of maize rose by 82% in Malawi, 80% in Ethiopia, and 71% in Mexico. The largest maize declines occurred in Honduras (31%), Somalia (20%), and El Salvador (19%). Rice prices in the same period rose by 125% in Uganda, 54% in Tanzania, and 38% in Rwanda. In turn, Bolivia saw its rice prices decline by a more modest 21% and Bangladesh's declined by 18%.So while there have been some declines in prices, the rises have more than outweighed them. But once again, the shortfalls in production, while worrying, and the price increases, while scary, do not mean that there isn't enough food in the world. Famine is not an automatic byproduct of these shortfalls. Starvation will result from a lack of purchasing power, not a lack of food.
And, to repeat:
Models that just treat supply and demand are not consistent with the actual price dynamics. There is a consistent firm upward pressure on food prices from the increased demand from ethanol conversion programs, but the big driver of food prices is "specifically due to investor speculation."