web analytics

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”

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Budget ignores vital role of quality ECE
    Last night I watched a fascinating programme about the Otago University 45 year study of 1000 New Zealanders. It concluded that there are ways to intervene and support people who are at risk of becoming violent. One of the key… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 hours ago
  • More ice for Radio NZ in Budget
    Budget 2016 once again left our only public broadcaster, Radio NZ (RNZ), worse off. After eight years of funding freezes, you have to wonder if RNZ is being iced-out for ideological reasons. I believe public broadcasting is an important cornerstone… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    10 hours ago
  • Fisheries inquiry must be widened to include Trident
    The Government must widen its inquiry into the Ministry for Primary Industries to include its awarding of a company owned by Sanford and Moana Pacific Fisheries to monitor commercial fishing vessels, Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene says. The Ministry for… ...
    12 hours ago
  • Government spend up on state house sell off
    The Government has spent $28.9 million and has 129 officials working on its misguided state house sell-off, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “This is a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money on a policy that won’t deliver a single extra… ...
    1 day ago
  • Housing crisis has huge impact on education
    The National Government’s failure to get on top of the housing crisis is having a major impact on the quality of education a lot of school kids are getting, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.  “There are thousands of kids… ...
    1 day ago
  • Minister celebrates while arts organisations face cuts
    Maggie Barry was full of self-congratulations for her small arts announcement in the budget, ignoring the pain that a large number of organisations are facing due to her inaction, says Arts, Culture, Heritage spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.  “The Budget delivered a… ...
    1 day ago
  • Regions miss out again in Joyce’s Koru Lounge Fund
      The regions have missed out yet again with Steven Joyce offering just $10m a year for key regional development projects while trumpeting a bunch of re-heated announcements, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “The dairy downturn has put… ...
    2 days ago
  • Children’s Commissioner misses out in Budget
      The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has missed out on a much needed boost in this year’s Budget, meaning they will be forced to continue their reduced monitoring role of CYFs residences, says Labour’s spokesperson for Children Jacinda Ardern. … ...
    2 days ago
  • Communities miss out in Budget
    Budget 2017 has left community and NGO providers feeling exposed about the services they provide to vulnerable families especially in smaller towns and communities, says Labour’s Whānau Ora Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “Approximately $40m will go into Whānau Ora to work… ...
    3 days ago
  • Budget2016: Two Worlds
    Sometimes I feel as if I live in two worlds. The world created by the National Government where everything is great and they’re doing a great job and the world as seen through the eyes of child advocates, community workers,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    3 days ago
  • Parekura would be proud – MTS gets boost
    The Labour Party is ecstatic that the Māori Party have shown support for one of Labour’s proudest policies, says Labour’s Māori Broadcasting Spokesperson Peeni Henare.  “The Māori Television Service was launched in 2004 by the late Hon Parekura Horomia. ...
    3 days ago
  • Māori housing in state of emergency
    The Government needs to declare a state of emergency for Māori Housing, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis. “The extra $3 million a year Māori Housing Network fund will not scratch the surface in… ...
    3 days ago
  • State house sell off in disarray after provider pulls out
     The Government should cancel its planned sell-off of state houses after the second big community housing provider pulled out leaving the process in disarray, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “It is time for the Government to back away from… ...
    3 days ago
  • Nothing in Budget to help police to solve crime
    The Police Minister has failed to make communities safer with virtually no new money in yesterday’s Budget for police to address the appalling burglary resolution rates, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “It’s a disgrace there’s no money or aspiration… ...
    3 days ago
  • Blog – Budget 2016: What about ordinary working people?
    Ordinary working New Zealanders don’t fare very well from this Budget. Setting aside the spin from the Government, it contains a lot to be concerned about and a fudging of the numbers. Green Party workplace relations spokesperson Denise Roche For… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    3 days ago
  • Real wages go backwards for next two years
    New Zealanders’ real wages will fall for the next two years as the cost of living outpaces forecast pay rises, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “New Zealanders have been doing it tough for far too long. They expect… ...
    3 days ago
  • The Attack on Public Education – by a thousand cuts
    Budget 2016 is another step towards the free public education system being a memory from the past. The Budget freezes the operations grant for schools and does not sufficiently cover the real increase in numbers of students entering the education system.… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 days ago
  • The Attack on Public Education – by a thousand cuts
    Budget 2016 is another step towards the free public education system being a memory from the past. The Budget freezes the operations grant for schools and does not sufficiently cover the real increase in numbers of students entering the education system.… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 days ago
  • The give with one hand – take with the other Budget
    The Minister of Health has pumped out media releases to 20 District Health Boards heralding increases in funding for their regions, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King. “But when you add population growth and inflation into the figures you get… ...
    3 days ago
  • Budget offers no hope of fixing housing crisis
    The Budget’s underwhelming housing measures will give New Zealanders no hope that National is capable of fixing the housing crisis, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “There isn’t a scrap of an idea to help desperate young Kiwi families into… ...
    4 days ago
  • How the budget fails new New Zealanders
    Greens co-leader James Shaw was absolutely correct to say the 2016 budget is just papering over the cracks. There’s nothing in this budget to increase wages, address inequal pay for carers or deal with the shocking pay rates and employment… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    4 days ago
  • Parents will pay more as school budgets frozen
    Parents will pay more for their kids’ education as a result of this year’s Budget after the Government froze operational funding for schools, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This means schools are effectively going backwards. They will need to… ...
    4 days ago
  • Sticking Plaster Budget fails the test
    Bill English’s penultimate Budget fails to tackle the structural challenges facing the economy – a housing crisis, rising unemployment, underfunded health and creaking infrastructure, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “This Budget applies a sticking plaster to a compound fracture.… ...
    4 days ago
  • John Key fails middle New Zealand with no fix for housing crisis, more underfunding of health
    Middle New Zealand has again missed out in this year’s Budget with not a single fix for the housing crisis, and health and education woefully underfunded again, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “This Budget is just a patchwork… ...
    4 days ago
  • Labour Bill would back Kiwi jobs
    The Government’s $40 billion of buying power would go towards backing Kiwi businesses and jobs under a Labour Member’s Bill which will be debated by Parliament, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “My Bill – which was pulled from… ...
    4 days ago
  • Julie Anne Genter: My Budget 2016 wish is fairness
    When my parents first visited me in Auckland ten years ago, they remarked on how there were no homeless people on the streets. Coming from Los Angeles, they were used to seeing the impacts of horrendous inequality and a lack… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter
    4 days ago
  • Steffan Browning: Pesticide reduction and Organic Growth Strategy in Budget 2016
    Pesticide reduction The Budget is an opportunity for the Government to launch a pesticide reduction strategy that multiplies the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ capacity to reassess pesticides and other toxins.  The Agricultural Compounds and… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning
    4 days ago
  • Steffan Browning: Pesticide reduction and Organic Growth Strategy in Budget 2016
    Pesticide reduction The Budget is an opportunity for the Government to launch a pesticide reduction strategy that multiplies the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ capacity to reassess pesticides and other toxins.  The Agricultural Compounds and… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning
    4 days ago
  • Minister won’t fess up on wrong figures
    The Minister of Health was caught out telling porkies in Parliament today when he was asked about the number of people getting access to mental health and addiction services, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King. ...
    5 days ago
  • Budget 2016 and our LGBTQI communities
    LGBTI people make up about a tenth of our population, and our communities face a unique set of needs and challenges. These challenges are caused or exacerbated by discrimination, invisibility and barriers to appropriate support. We have a long way… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    5 days ago
  • Budget 2016 and our LGBTQI communities
    LGBTI people make up about a tenth of our population, and our communities face a unique set of needs and challenges. These challenges are caused or exacerbated by discrimination, invisibility and barriers to appropriate support. We have a long way… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    5 days ago
  • Scrambled announcement policy on the hoof
    Paula Bennett’s scrambled desperate announcement that she will pay homeless people to move to the regions is just the latest evidence of the disarray this Government’s housing policy is in, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. “This is policy… ...
    5 days ago
  • Police Minister admits resolution rates fall short of expectation
    Police Minister Judith Collins has admitted in Parliament current burglary resolution rates are not meeting the expectations of our communities, says Labour’s Police spokesman Stuart Nash “Out of 284 police stations in New Zealand in 2015, 24 stations recorded zero… ...
    5 days ago
  • Mojo Mathers: A better deal for animals in Budget 2016
    Currently we are failing animals in NZ. On the face of it farmed and domestic animals in this country have strong legal protection from abuse, cruelty and neglect. In reality it seems that only the very worst, most extreme cases… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers
    5 days ago
  • Metiria Turei: What we need from Budget 2016
    Every family deserves a warm decent home.  Everyone believes that. This housing crisis is just the latest consequence of a Government who puts the interests of the few wealthy people above the needs of NZ families.  Families are doing it… ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei
    5 days ago
  • Dairy exports fall of 11%: Budget action on diversification needed
    Dairy exports have fallen 11 per cent compared to this time last year, a fall of almost $1.5b, showing the Government must take clear action on diversifying the economy in tomorrow’s Budget, says Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David… ...
    5 days ago
  • Investors driving families out of homes in South and West Auckland
    Investors cashing in on skyrocketing Auckland house prices are driving families out of homes in South and West Auckland and causing homeownership rates in some of our poorest suburbs to plummet, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “New analysis shows… ...
    5 days ago
  • Budget must deliver on paid parental leave
    Budget 2016 must deliver 26 weeks paid parental leave by April 2018 – anything less will be short-changing families, says Labour MP Sue Moroney. “My Bill which is before Parliament this afternoon has majority support and does just that. I… ...
    5 days ago
  • Key’s “brain fart” on tax cuts news to English
    John Key didn’t tell his own Finance Minister he was about to go on radio and announce he wanted $3b of tax cuts, just days after Bill English ruled them out, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “In Parliament today… ...
    6 days ago
  • What I’m looking for in Budget 2016 – A better start for our tamariki
    Ensuring the best start for our tamariki is a priority for me in everything I do. And so in Budget 2016, my first budget as an MP, I looking for the Government to make a real investment in the wellbeing… ...
    GreensBy Marama Davidson
    6 days ago
  • What I’m looking for in Budget 2016 – A better start for our tamariki
    Ensuring the best start for our tamariki is a priority for me in everything I do. And so in Budget 2016, my first budget as an MP, I looking for the Government to make a real investment in the wellbeing… ...
    GreensBy Marama Davidson
    6 days ago
  • Denise Roche: What I’m looking for in Budget 2016 Pt II
    Aotearoa’s new New Zealanders,  come to our country in vulnerable position: – often away from the culture, communities and families they know, sometimes in neighbourhoods without familiar faces and often encountering barriers to employment. With net migration at 50,000+ a… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    6 days ago
  • Equal Pay and Budget 2016
    The last few years we’ve seen equal pay for women flagged as an undefined risk in the budget. This year we should expect to see this, as well as budgeted money to deliver equal pay to caregivers and funding for,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    6 days ago
  • Equal Pay and Budget 2016
    The last few years we’ve seen equal pay for women flagged as an undefined risk in the budget. This year we should expect to see this, as well as budgeted money to deliver equal pay to caregivers and funding for,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    6 days ago
  • A great Budget would
    A great Budget would embrace the challenge of our polluted rivers and move the money away from justifying the status quo water rules into cleaning up waterways. A great Budget would take the Ministry for the Environment freshwater budget and… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    7 days ago
  • Budget building materials policy backfires
    On the eve of this year’s Budget official figures show Nick Smith’s Budget 2014 centrepiece to reduce the cost of building materials has backfired, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials have spent the… ...
    7 days ago
  • Smarter, Better, Cleaner, Stronger
    This Thursday Bill English will deliver his eighth Budget. Will it continue the trend of previous National budgets, making tertiary education less affordable, putting only token funds into innovation, and subsidising polluters? Budgets aren’t what they used to be. Once… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    7 days ago
  • Govt must come clean on tax cuts in Budget
    National is making a mockery of the Budget process by dangling the promise of tax cuts but failing to include them in the Budget, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “National’s tax cut promises have turned into a farce. One… ...
    1 week ago
  • Grant Robertson Pre-Budget Speech
    Today I want to talk about success. As we know success can come in many different forms, from the fact you all made it here at such an early hour on a Monday, for which I am very grateful, to… ...
    1 week ago
  • Budget must deliver for middle New Zealand
    The Government must ensure next week’s Budget stops the squeeze on middle New Zealand and delivers shared prosperity for all New Zealanders, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. The call follows new research commissioned by Labour that shows working… ...
    1 week ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere