Rising commodity prices are affecting
levels of food aid
In Finetown, one of South Africa's poorest settlements, a group of women are trying to provide more than 1,500 children with three meals a day.

The settlement, which lies just south of Johannesburg, is beset by high unemployment and Aids.

Many of the children there already carry the disease and their parents are too poor to care for them properly.

With only about $130 a month to buy food, rising global grain prices due to increasing demand and a disappointing harvest, are making things even more difficult.

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The price of basic food commodities such as wheat, rice and corn have risen around the globe and that price rise is affecting the levels of food aid.

In the last seven years, the US, which is the world's largest single food donor, has more than halved its donations to 2.4 million tonnes a year and many fear the downward spiral will continue.

But there are also other implications: the children in Finetown are not getting enough milk.

"Milk is very important, children need calcium, they need calcium in their bodies, especially many of our kids are sick, and they need the vitamins," Linda Tukula, one of the women caring for the children in Finetown, told Al Jazeera.

Farming crisis

The increasing price of grain is affecting South Africa's dairy industry.

In the country's Western Cape there is limited grazing space, meaning farmers feed their cows a special mix made of straw and grain.

But as the price of grain increases, keeping the cows becomes more expensive, with farmers complaining that buying grain now makes up more than half of their production bill.

Chris Starke, a South African farmer, has a busy farm with about 1,300 cows.

In 2005 he paid about $97 for a tonne of grain, which he uses to feed his animals, but over the year the price has more than tripled and in 2007 he found himself paying $321 per tonne.
 
"I think the milk industry in South Africa, if its not going to keep pace with the rising feed costs, it will go backward," he said.

As grain prices climb globally, milk production in South Africa is becoming more expensive. By some estimates, at least five dairy farmers leave the industry a week.

Meanwhile, the children of Finetown are left without the nutrition they need.

Source: Al Jazeera