web analytics
The Standard

The new food crisis

Written By: - Date published: 9:57 am, August 13th, 2010 - 19 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, energy, food - Tags:

Climate change, peak oil, resource exhaustion, and over-population are combing to cause a new food crisis. The human population runs on grass seeds – grains supply half the calories we consume directly and feed much of our live-stock. The prices of those are skyrocketing.

There’s not enough for the number of mouths. The land is becoming less productive. Fertilisers are running out. Oil prices are driving up production costs. Now, in Russia the worst drought in a century has slashed grain production, forcing the government to impose an export ban (the drought has also triggered forest fires at Chernobyl, sending radioactive ash into the atmosphere).

The WTO is pleading for other major exporters to not close off their trade but if they don’t their people will go hungry while their grain goes abroad to feed the rich. Ukraine is imposing its own export controls, and other major exporters may follow.

It’s not just the grain market that is in trouble. Food prices across the board are rising fast and are projected to keep on rising – quite simply, supply is not keeping up with demand.

The grim irony to Russia being the centre of a new food crisis is that for years they have been quietly talking of climate change as an opportunity. Russian leaders have said the melting permafrost will open up huge new areas for farming. The reality is that the soil under the permafrost, having been frozen for tens of thousands of years, is next to useless and their existing farmland is suffering drought and fire.

The last food crisis was in 2007-08, the same time as the last oil shock. They ended only when the world went into recession. Once again, we have emerging food and oil crises, and the world economy is staring at recession.

This is no coincidence. Recession is just an effect of these fundamental constraints. We’re about to slam into the limits of growth again.

19 comments on “The new food crisis”

  1. Herodotus 1

    Marty G you forgot to mention the ability of trading rooms playing games with peoples lives as they speculate on the price. Just watch the futures markets as they have had all the resources thrown at them to be able to hedge for movements. With these shortages and the happenngs in Pakistan, we could very well see a few moving uo the suoer wealth rankings but with blood on their hands as a consequence.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    All that pessimism and misery and you haven’t even added in Wheat Rust yet!

    http://www.economist.com/node/16481593

    “IT IS sometimes called the “polio of agriculture': a terrifying but almost forgotten disease. Wheat rust is not just back after a 50-year absence, but spreading in new and scary forms. In some ways it is worse than child-crippling polio, still lingering in parts of Nigeria. Wheat rust has spread silently and speedily by 5,000 miles in a decade. It is now camped at the gates of one of the world’s breadbaskets, Punjab. In June scientists announced the discovery of two new strains in South Africa, the most important food producer yet infected.

    Wheat rust once spurred the Green Revolution, the huge increase in crop yields that started in the 1940s. Now it could threaten those great gains. Norman Borlaug, the great American agronomist who died last year, conducted his original research into wheat rust. After ten years of painstaking crossbreeding, he isolated a gene, Sr31 (Sr for stem rust) that resisted P. graminis. By wonderful good fortune, Sr31 also boosted yields (and not only because plants were impervious to rust). Farmers everywhere adopted his seeds enthusiastically, saving millions of lives. So fast did his new varieties spread that by the 1970s, stem rust seemed to have been wiped out.”

  3. vto 3

    Japan only produces 40% of its food requirements………….. another ticking time bomb perhaps

  4. randal 4

    reality sandwiches for dinner then?

  5. prism 5

    I like to buy a cappucino once a week, it’s gone up from $3.50 to $4.40 – reason cost of milk up. While I drank I flicked through DomPost – something in business section about Mark Hotchins Allied Farmers and Hanover Finance (I think that’s the name). Problem was about share swap but one lot came with hidden debt and now finance payments due may not be met.

    Seems like much of the money in NZ is going to smart sh”s like this guy, the business leaders travel between destinations in their isolation bubbles, and we may end up with food protests like other countries we considered ourselves to be superior to. Often those countries have a top class who have captured most of the wealth, and that’s the way stats show that NZ is trending.

    We can’t even grow bananas, our favourite food just like monkeys, so we can’t become a banana republic, and we can’t make nests in the trees like monkeys do either. Lord Rutherford – ‘We haven’t the money so we’ve got to think (for once)’.

  6. tc 6

    Gwnne Dyers excellent ‘Climate wars’ outlines this scenario and details that the US has had a high level gov’t funded group making contingency plans around mass migrations of people in search of food as they consider that a security threat.

    Italian tomatoe crop predicted to be 10-20% down also…mamma mia.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      And that is something that we haven’t been doing and will need to do. There’s a very good reason why I say that we will be closing our borders in the near future – There’s no way we can support the influx of millions of people as food refugees start looking for a place to live that can be reached by boat. We will only have one choice and that will be to stop them landing. We will also need better defensive operations – something that can stop an invasion fleet without relying on imported weapons.

  7. Zaphod Beeblebrox 7

    WTF is milk so expensive in NZ?. In Aus 2 litres are $A3.40. I know Fonterra are our biggest company and dairy farmers are gods but why to we all ahve to suffer financially for a company that makes millions in profit?

  8. KJT 8

    Ask why you can build a house in Australia for the same or less than here even though the cost of labour is 3 times higher over there.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1

      And builders over there have to have proper qualifications and be registered. Just a guess but that might have something to do with the fact that houses over there don’t leak.

    • Lanthanide 8.2

      Yes, the building supplies are so ridiculously overpriced here, someone must be making a killing.

      You can go to a store and pay $4 for a little piece of metal in a specific shape that you need that can’t have cost any more than 0.001 cent to make.

      • loota 8.2.1

        No wonder Fletcher Buildings is the share to buy

        • Herodotus 8.2.1.1

          It has nothing to do with houses now in NZ having to be double glazed adding $6-10k per house. Water hook ups in Ak costing $1k in 2006 and now $5-6k currently within Manukau Area alone. A house that took 4 months to build and get code of compliance now taking 8-10 months or that councils now charge development contributions ranging from $6-$30+k. And remmber all these council costs then have GStT charged on top. Thanks to the govt that enabled these just add costs not thinking of how NZ voters are and have been struggling to keep a family unit going. But I forget how removed Mps are with the rest if us. I g=bet most no not even know how much it costs to keep a family clothed, fed and housed.

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.2.1.1.1

            The fact that its almost impossible to build anything over 2 storeys anywhere can’t help as well. Saw an advertisement for a gated subdivision in Avondale (presumably reasonably expensive land) and it was all single storey stuff. Why wouldn’t the developer make a bit of money and make it 2 or 3 storeys. In Melb or Syd it would be 4 storeys. Would make development contributions and water connections a lot cheaper if we were allowed to build stuff to any scale.

          • KJT 8.2.1.1.2

            Herod.
            They have similar charges in Australia. Including sales taxes.
            Reserve fees etc are nothing to do with the cost of building the house, but they have those in Aus too.
            It has to do with the fact that you can buy the same building materials. (A lot of which, framing etc, often are NZ sourced) for a lot less over there.

            • Herodotus 8.2.1.1.2.1

              We use timber framing, Aust double bricks. We have smaller scale of economies, just look at the no and locations of brick/masonry works are. Our block machines are smaller are run part of the day 1-2 shifts. KRT kitechen and bathrooms are sourced overseas, we had an industry but much of that has closed down, Steel costs for mesh just keeps going up, it was like watching the petrol pump just winding up the numbers. Roughly building costs have gone up from about $1300m2 to over $2000 for a 2 story house. Then add the cost of funding, realestate fees. From a cost + perspective houseing is as cheep as we in NZ have experienced since the late 80’s.
              Most councils limit the heights of buildings to 9m and some developers limit to 8m in height with a traditioanal pitch roof limits to 2 levels.
              Land for a low populated country is expensive, yet much of that is because of the lack (My perspective) of ability to plan, they cannot fund infrastructure (as they have no money) With fragmented land ownership this procludes then individual developers to proceed as they will require 3rd party land to build stormwater ponds, infrastructure to their development, the lack of easily developed land in Auck. Much of what is to be developed is tricky and requiring expensive geotechnical work, that many do not see or are aware of the cost. e.g shearkeys to keep land stable $1m for each key to be dugup and then recompacted with suitable fill.. the only thing keeping developement costs down is very aggressive sub contractors earthworks and civils. This is short term as many are hard pressed financially.
              We also have a market unable to afford new housing and banks unwilling to lend developers and potential house owners.
              rant finished !!! developers are even selling their European cars !!! the 2 seater versions anyway

  9. David 9

    Last time I checked the stats (a few years ago now) there was more than twice as much food (in terms of kilojoules) produced each year than was needed to give everyone on the planet a decent diet. The problem is that not everyone can afford it. I’m sceptical too about the notion of “over-population”…

    I reconmend two articles from Australia: “Population control — a political weapon for conservatives”
    http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/44864

    “The battle for the world food system: an interview with Raj Patel”
    http://vimeo.com/12258201

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 8

  • Tragedy must be impetus for better training
    The Police Minister needs to explain why unsworn and inadequately trained custody officers were put in a situation of caring for a medically unwell prisoner on a busy Saturday night, Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Commenting on an IPCA… ...
    2 days ago
  • Government must be more transparent on investor state clauses
    The Government must be more transparent around the draft investor state dispute settlements in the TPPA, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson. “Labour is pro trade, and is proud of the FTA we negotiated with China, which… ...
    2 days ago
  • Protect university staff and student voices
    The Green Party believes ensuring student and staff representation on university councils is important. National recently passed a law reducing the size of university governance councils while increasing the proportion of the members nominated by, guess who… Steven Joyce. The… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    3 days ago
  • C’mon Nick what’s the truth on the RMA
     “Nick Smith has got to fess up and tell us what is happening to his much vaunted RMA reform, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Megan Woods says.  “With just a day and a half to go before the polls open in Northland,… ...
    3 days ago
  • SSC salaries sink National’s spending spin
    Massive pay rises at the State Services Commission prove National’s claims of clamping down on spending in the public sector are simply fantasy, Labour’s State Services spokesman Kris Faafoi says. “Salaries in this one department are almost $70,000 more than… ...
    3 days ago
  • We can fix Christchurch and keep our assets
    The Christchurch City Council is seeking public feedback on its proposed 10 year plan for Council revenue and spending. This is probably one of the most significant 10 year plans ever to be written by a local council because of… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    3 days ago
  • Epidemic of serious assaults in our prisons
    Labour wants stab proof vests and pepper spray for all corrections officers to keep them safe from the epidemic of serious prison assaults that are occurring around the country’s jails, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis.  “There have been five… ...
    3 days ago
  • Listen to the locals Hekia!
    Minister Hekia Parata needs to understand what consultation is, Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson says. “It means you have to listen to what people say in their submissions and then be able to demonstrate you have considered their views when… ...
    4 days ago
  • Thanking our caregivers
    Let’s celebrate and thank our caregivers. This week is caregivers’ week. It’s a chance to acknowledge the thousands of women, and occasional other person, who are caring for the elderly and disabled in our country. They hold people’s lives in… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • Mana Post shop the best outcome for community
    Labour MP for Mana Kris Faafoi has welcomed the move to place the services from the Mana Post shop to a local small business. “This is the best outcome for the community we could ask for. All the vital services… ...
    4 days ago
  • Labour looks to put the tea back into entitlements
    Labour is moving to restore the rights of Kiwis to take tea and rest breaks, Leader Andrew Little says. “Within months of the Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill becoming law we are already seeing some of our largest companies, including… ...
    4 days ago
  • Desperate money grab to keep Ruataniwha afloat
    The Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company’s decision to borrow $4 million to keep the Ruataniwha project afloat is a case of throwing ratepayer’s good money after bad, says Labour’s Water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri and Napier MP Stuart Nash.   “This bridging… ...
    5 days ago
  • Roundup: UN finds it “probably” causes cancer
    At last the UN has spoken out against the widely-used weedkiller Roundup. The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified glyphosate, the principle ingredient in Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. They also include as probable carcinogens the insecticides… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    5 days ago
  • Invermay petition delivered to Parliament
    Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark handed over a 12,450 signature Save Invermay petition to Dunedin South MP Clare Curran on the steps of Parliament today.  “The level of support that the petition has received across New Zealand is overwhelming,”… ...
    5 days ago
  • Redcliffs School closure plan wrong
    The Government’s proposal to consult on the closure of Redcliffs School not only goes against the best geotechnical advice, but more importantly goes against the best educational outcomes for Redcliffs children and the health of our community, Port Hills MP… ...
    5 days ago
  • Cotton On first to test the tea breaks law
    Australian corporate Cotton On, the first major business operating in New Zealand to exploit the new tea breaks law, could walk away from negotiations if it doesn’t get its own way, says Labour Party Labour Relations spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.  “Cotton… ...
    6 days ago
  • World water day: eight rivers in one day
    Our photo journey started by the Waioweka (also known as Waioeka) River which flows from Te Urewera to Opotiki, and is surrounded by beautiful forest. The water looked great! Kopeopeo Canal It contrasted greatly with the Kopeopeo Canal near Whakatane,… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    6 days ago
  • Council can stop Port’s encroachment on harbour
    As owner of the Port of Auckland, Council can stop the wharf extension and reclamation if it wants to, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Goff. ‘As owner the council is custodian of the port and harbour on behalf of… ...
    6 days ago
  • We all benefit when education meets everyone’s needs
    As Dyslexia week comes to a close,  Dyslexia NZ have reminded us that around 10% of our citizens are dyslexic and are entitled to better support. One of their strongest arguments is that failure to provide identification and support for… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    6 days ago
  • State house sell-off fiasco a gift for developers
    The Government’s property developer mates are the only people who can salvage National’s state house sell-off now the Salvation Army has torpedoed the policy, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Having been cynically used by the Government as the poster… ...
    6 days ago
  • National reinforces inequality in schools
    The National Government’s flagship programme Investing in Educational Success is clearly reinforcing inequality in the school system, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The analysis released today by the NZEI clearly shows schools in wealthier suburbs are the main beneficiaries… ...
    6 days ago
  • Big change starts small
    Today marks Race Relations Day in New Zealand. Race Relations Day coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The United Nations General Assembly chose this day as it marks the day in 1960 when 69 peaceful… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Israel, Palestine and the question of statehood
    The knife-edge election in Israel complicates the Middle East situation, even more than usual. The Prime Minister-elect, Binyamin Netanyahu, is moving to form a government. Netanyahu has indicated that, during his term, a Palestinian state would not be established. That… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    1 week ago
  • Christchurch transport goes backwards
    The Green Party has a vision of a liveable, accessible Christchurch with a sense of identity and strong connected communities. Instead, 2013 census figures released by Statistics New Zealand reveal a fractured community, and tell a story of frustrated Christchurch commuters… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Super Fund should divest $140 million in high risk coal
    The Green Party is calling on the New Zealand Super Fund to divest their $140 million investment in coal companies that are vulnerable to becoming financially stranded according to a damning new report from Oxford University. The Smith School of… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    1 week ago
  • Learn to count with Mark Osborne: 0 + 1 = ?
    The adage about the first casualty of war being truth is one that might often be applied to the political battle for hearts and minds, and of course votes. A rather unfortunate example of this has been arriving in the… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Is it still a safety net when the holes are this big?
    Over the last few weeks I’ve been wondering how safe our income support system is for people, especially those with cognitive or learning disabilities. I’ve been trying to support a young man who was severely injured in a workplace accident… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Pasifika – protecting the Pacific needed now more than ever.
    Over the weekend thousands of Aucklanders flocked to celebrate our city’s diverse Pacific communities and cultures at the annual Pasifika festival and the Greens were there to join them. The Pasifika festival has been held every year for 23… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Sounds Stakeholders Seek a Sustainable Future
    It was heartening to see a large number of people who care about the Marlborough Sounds come together at the Marlborough Marine Futures’ forum in Picton on March 8. Fellow Green MP Steffan Browning, who lives in Marlborough, and I… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Solid Energy, who will clean up the mess?
    What can you say? This state-owned coal miner is facing some very serious problems. They haven’t run a profit in years, have required two Government bailouts, laid-off more than 700 staff and look like they need a third injection of… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    2 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere