Tuesday, November 23, 2010

why you should be scared of china's food price inflation

Yahoo Finance | If you listen to the Fed, inflation is non-existent, especially when you strip out "volatile" items like food. That's fine and good, as long as you don't have to eat...

But, of course, everybody has to eat; that's why policymakers around the world were alarmed by China's recent CPI report, which showed food prices rose 10.1% in October. A separate report showed a basket of produce rose a shocking 62% on a year-over-year basis in the first 10 days of November.

Set aside for a moment questions about the accuracy of the data -- or whether inflation in China is the result of Ben Bernanke's QE2 or China's own easy money policies, and consider:

* -- An estimated 200 million migrant workers have moved from rural areas to Chinese cities in recent decades, with another 400 million predicted to follow suit in the next 20 years, according to The Independent.
* -- China had an urban population of 620 million by the end of 2009, which was 46.6 percent of the nation's total population, China Daily reports. Urban residents are expected to comprise about 52 percent of the Chinese population by 2015, and 65 percent by 2030.

That's a lot of mouths to feed and a big reason why Adrian Day of Adrian Day Asset Management is "extremely scared" about the potential for food price spikes to lead to rioting -- and even wars in the coming years.

Food is just one of myriad commodities China needs to secure in vast quantities in order to maintain its blistering growth, not to mention the legitimacy of the government. It's also the most basic, which is why Day is so concerned, as discussed in detail in the accompanying video.

Unlike some experts - notably Niall Ferguson - Day does not believe the U.S. and China are inevitably on a collision course. But it's worth noting another report that came out last week: The government's annual assessment of China's military capabilities, where there's evidence of another kind of highly disturbing "inflation."