What price food?
A Happy 2008 to all ThinkingShift readers! I’m sure, like me, you’ve pledged the usual New Year’s resolution and, if like me, around about late February you’ll be saying “what New Year’s resolution?”. I hope you’ve had a restful Christmas and New Year and now we need to focus on 2008. What does 2008, the Year of the Earth Rat in the Chinese zodiac, have in store for us? Well, I’m sure I’ll continue to slug it out with people who don’t believe in climate destabilization. Following my post the other day on this topic, I was beaten up on a social network that discusses global warming and labeled an “eco-entrepreneur”. I rather like the “entrepreneur” bit, but not quite sure what on earth an eco-entrepreneur is. But I enjoy a bit of a dust up, so no doubt there will be more fracas for me to get into during 2008 🙂
And so for 2008: we need to keep focused on important global issues like poverty reduction, slavery and of course climate destabilization, but here’s a sobering thought for the start of 2008. World food stocks are dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels. I was in the supermarket the other day (I try to shop organic where I can but where I live, it’s not always easy). I nearly fell over when I saw that capsicums were $AU 9.98 a kilo. And in Australia, we’ve been warned that the price of fruits and vegetables will rise fairly sharply because of our ongoing struggles with drought.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is already seeing some alarming trends. The total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25%, to $107 million, in the last year. At the same time, reserves of cereals for example have dramatically declined – world wheat stores declined 11% this year, to the lowest level since 1980. And there are only 8 weeks of corn left in reserve. Whilst food stocks are dwindling, food prices are soaring. Wheat prices have risen by $130 per ton, or 52%, over the last year.
Demand for cereals and grains comes from two sources: an increasing global population and cattle that need to be raised and fed to cater for a growing population of meat-eaters. Higher oil costs also impact on shipping rates putting enormous stress on nations that need to import food. Climate destabilization has seen unusual weather events and patterns – such as droughts, floods and hurricanes – and these have decreased production in important exporting countries like Australia and Ukraine.
Scientists are suggesting that farmers can adapt to warmer weather (between 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) to 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees) by switching to hardier species and storing water for irrigation. But beyond 3 degrees Celsius – kaput.
Clearly, agricultural policies will need to be rethought and food aid programs will need to be helped. As we sit down to our next meal, let’s give a thought to people in this world who are facing increasing food shortages. Could be us next.
Source: International Herald Tribune