Prices for cornmeal and rice have doubled in Somalia since January, and on Monday food riots wracked the Somalian city of Mogadishu. Thousands of people protested the insane prices for staple foods, and eventually police shot and killed two protesters. Earlier this year, food riots broke out in the African nation of Senegal as well. What's causing these conditions, which sound like the precursors to the apocalyptic food-shortage flick Soylent Green?

According to the International Herald Tribune, bad weather and skyrocketing fuel costs have made it harder for locals to grow and transport staple foods. But the problem is also pure politico-economic:

The protesters in Mogadishu on Monday included women and children who marched against the refusal of many shopkeepers to accept the country's old 1,000-shilling notes, which are worth 74 U.S. cents. Many of the protesters blamed the shopkeepers' refusal to honor the bills for sharply rising prices.

Shortly after the beginning of that demonstration, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, hurling stones that smashed the windshields of several cars and buses. Demonstrators threw rocks at shops and chaos erupted at the city's main market. Hundreds of shops and restaurants in southern Mogadishu closed their doors for fear of looting. "Traders have refused to take old notes," Hussein Abdikadir said as he rolled a tire that he intended to burn.

"Food prices are high and we have nothing to eat. We will protest until the traders agree to take the notes and sell us food."

Shopkeepers in the sprawling Bakara market, which also houses a well-known open-air arms bazaar, say the interim government and unscrupulous businessmen are responsible for runaway inflation. "Businessmen blame the government, which does not control the security and circulation of money," said Abdirahman Omar, a money-changer.


How much longer before food riots become commonplace everywhere in the world? Image via Getty.

2 Die in Somalia Riot Over Food Prices [International Herald Tribune]