Faim et éthanol

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA – Les prix alimentaires ont, pour la plupart, dépassé les niveaux record de juillet 2008. A l’époque, les augmentations de prix alimentaires étaient dues à la croissance de la demande globale pour les matières premières agricoles, un déclin très important de la valeur du dollar américain, de mauvaises récoltes dans certaines parties du monde et les biocarburants. Mais quels sont les éléments qui déterminent la flambée des prix actuelle ?

Je pense que les facteurs clés actuels sont en partie différents de ceux à l’origine de la montée des prix alimentaires de 2008. La croissance de la demande globale pour les matières premières agricoles explique toujours une partie importante du phénomène, tout comme les biocarburants. Cependant, les implications de court et long termes sont assez différentes.

Lorsque les conditions de vie dans les pays en développement s’améliorent, un des premiers changements qui s’opèrent est ce que l’on appelle la « transition alimentaire ». Disposant d’un revenu disponible accru, les gens se mettent à consommer une partie plus importante de leur panier alimentaire sous forme de produits d’origine animale. Or, la production de ces produits d’origine animale nécessite beaucoup plus de ressources agricoles qu’un régime alimentaire basé essentiellement sur les plantes. Ainsi, lorsque les revenus augmentent, la demande pour les produits alimentaires augmente encore plus. La croissance de la population combinée à une transition alimentaire augmente la croissance de la demande et pousse à la hausse les prix alimentaires.

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