This is important to bear in mind, because rising food prices have historically been the trigger for political revolutions. The three
revolutions that made the modern world, in France, Russia, and China, all had their immediate origins in food shortages, fear of hunger, and disputes about food pricing.
The panic about bread that swept France in 1789, and the inability of the government to guarantee supplies, destroyed the ancien regime. Louis XVI was contemptuously called “le boulanger,” the baker. Wartime inflation destroyed stability in the Russian empire in 1917, as farmers, worried about the declining value of their money, hoarded their output and let the cities starve. The Bolsheviks came to power on a promise of bread (and peace). China, too, was paralyzed by inflation after the Second World War, leaving it vulnerable to food panics.
Food prices are usually not limited in their effects to one country alone. Simultaneous revolutions swept Europe in 1848, in the aftermath of crop failures whose most notorious manifestation was the Irish famine. Price rises have been a major trigger of the discontent this year in the Middle East and North Africa. Though the Egyptian and Tunisian economies were expanding quite satisfactorily, people had to pay much more for food.