Monday, December 17, 2007

[today grain] tomorrow meat and water

Simultaneous floods in Europe, drought in Australia and cold in South America has both depleted grain supplies and are currently inflating food prices, coincidentally as the expanded, newly expanded EU and the SPPNA come into being, with one major thrust being relief in poorer areas such as Africa:

Officials forecast US wheat stocks would shrink to their lowest level in 60 years, dropping from 312m bushels to 280m by the end of the 2007-08 crop year. The US is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat and importing countries are bidding heavily for its crops as other exporters cut supplies.

Cold weather damaged crops in Argentina and drought affected Australia’s wheat production. Flooding also damaged European crops. Michael Lewis, of Deutsche Bank in London, said the decline in stocks and rising shortages in large parts of Asia suggested 2008 “could deliver another year of . . . price shocks”.

Other commentators aay the stockpiles are due to increase, not decrease, in 2008/9. The EU has reversed it's 10% fallow rule to start stockpiling again plus the French farming Minister has called for a rethink of the whole farming industry. Uh-huh:

So is Mr Barnier ready to take the next step, and contemplate a radical shrinking of the market-distorting Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), now that farming is, in his own description, back to being a more straightforward business involving profitable supply, and rising demand?

Is he a French farming minister? Why yes, he is. So instead, his conclusion is that more state intervention is going to be needed, and the CAP will have to remain the "primary economic policy of the European Union".

Interesting. What effect will this have on, say, sheep farmers who depend on reasonably priced grain? And will calling land back from fallow work in the short term, given the deterioration factor? And are biofuels to blame for a large portion of the problem? Has it been artificially induced over the last two decades with changes in farming technologies?

So, all this has pretty well been written up and perhaps it's time to look at the next items on the list - meat supplies [soy production targets a good indicator here] and drinking water. I'm particularly looking at the latter.

The former is in the news mainly through foot and mouth and bird flu. The latter is a longer term problem this blog has touched on before. In this country almost everyone buys pre-treated bottle water - a huge industry indeed but still cheap, at 90 roubles for 19 litres.

At least they still bring it to your door here, unlike in other parts of the world. And in Southern California there is yet another solution.

Whichever way you dice it or slice it, it's going to mean big money to those in control of basic life-sustaining supplies. So your choice seems clear - either work your way into the upper echelons who are barely affected by global crisis, stay with the other 98% blithely oblivious until it happens or be one of the micro-percentage who are adopting lateral solutions until such time as they're shut out of the food chain altogether.

Another interesting study is the largely unsubstantiated fungal toxin warfare, such as Plan Colombia amd Agent Green but it seems to me it is becoming increasingly unnecessary, what with the poisonous air and water we now endure - we currently have an epidemic in our city anyway, for example.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The conversion rates, food to meat, are roughly as follows
Chicken, 2:1
Sheep/pigs 4:1
Cattle, 8:1
Sheep cannot be raised intensively.
Meat, ex cattle will increasingly be beyond the pocket of Mr Average.

The whole theory of meat eating is uneconomic on this basis, however other factors do enter the evaluation. Climate changes may give year-round grass growth in more areas, reducing the need for hay, or grain substitutes, although it could be argued that the same area could be better used for grain production, given the inefficiency latent in the above conversion ratios.
Increasing use of licks can add calories at critical times.