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

  • Steven Joyce takes the scalpel to medical students
    This November access to the Student Loan scheme will be cut off at seven years seriously harming medical students. Studying to become a doctor takes years of hard work, dedication and intense study and it’s a blunt tool and… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    10 hours ago
  • Tolley must assure safety of vulnerable clients
    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley must guarantee the safety of Relationships Aotearoa’s thousands of Māori clients – some of whom are very vulnerable – following the closure of the nationwide counselling service, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. Relationships… ...
    13 hours ago
  • ANZ has moral obligation to fully compensate farmers
      The ANZ Bank has a moral obligation to fully compensate farmers after the High Court today declared it breached the Fair Trading Act by misleadingly representing interest rate swap loans, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. The Commerce… ...
    1 day ago
  • Fairfax can’t use restructure to cut terms and conditions
    The restructure and upheavals at Fairfax should not be used as an opportunity to cut journalists’ terms and conditions, Labour spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “Businesses have to adapt to new technologies and consumer demands and there is… ...
    1 day ago
  • McCully excuses unravel in Saudi sheep scandal
    Murray McCully has misled New Zealanders, Parliament and his Cabinet colleagues on the real reasons for paying millions of dollars in the Saudi sheep scandal – it’s time for him to clean, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David… ...
    1 day ago
  • Nats break health and education spending promises
    National has outstanding promises of almost $1 billion to be spent on health, education and agriculture from the Future Investment Fund but has only $536 million left in the fund, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “John Key and Bill… ...
    1 day ago
  • Manurewa youth leaders acknowledged
    The depth and breadth of leadership of youth throughout Manurewa, which has been recognized at the Youth Week Award ceremony held at Parliament this week, should make the community extremely proud, Manurewa Labour MP Louisa Wall says. “The 'Limitless Youth… ...
    2 days ago
  • Oi Auckland Transport: fare’s fair
    Auckland Transport should go back to the drawing board on its proposal to charge commuters for its park-and-rides, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “When we need to be getting people out of their cars and onto public transport, it’s… ...
    2 days ago
  • Is Nick Smith making it up as he goes along?
      Housing Minister Nick Smith must release the list of Crown land parcels which formed the basis of the Government’s Budget announcement, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “If the public is to have any faith the Government is not just… ...
    2 days ago
  • Norway moves first to dump coal investments
    The Green Party today called on the Government to secure cross-party support to sell its investments in coal mining companies.The Norwegian Parliament's finance committee agreed in a bipartisan motion yesterday to instruct the $1.2 trillion Government Pension Fund to sell… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    2 days ago
  • Fonterra payout $13b black hole over 2 years
    Fonterra’s dramatic cut to its forecast farmgate payout over this season and next will lead to a $13 billion black hole over two years, and shows the need for a plan to diversify the economy, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant… ...
    2 days ago
  • Labour calls for select ctte inquiry into Rural Broadband Initiative
    Labour is calling for an immediate inquiry into the flailing $300 million rural broadband initiative, before companies and consumers are forced to pick up the tab for the new $150 million broadband tax, says Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran. “Rural… ...
    2 days ago
  • Public broadcasting takes big hit under National Government
    Public broadcasting funding has been cut by 25 per cent in real terms since the National Government took office in 2009, leading to the erosion of our once world-class news and current affairs culture, says Labour Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. … ...
    2 days ago
  • Hospital food plan hits another snag
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    2 days ago
  • Hospital food plan hits another sang
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    2 days ago
  • Wilkinson appointment wrong in principle
    The appointment of former Conservation Minister Hon Kate Wilkinson as an Environment Commissioner is wrong in principle, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker. “The doctrine of separation of powers requires judicial processes to remain separate and independent from the legislature… ...
    2 days ago
  • McCully doesn’t deny bribe in Saudi sheep scandal
    “In Parliament today I asked Murray McCully directly: Why is he the first Minister in history to back a multi-million dollar facilitation arrangement which in other jurisdictions is called a bribe? says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.… ...
    2 days ago
  • National must back our future doctors
    National must support our future doctors and agree to the calls from the Medical Students’ Association and the Young Nats to lift the arbitrary 7 year cap on student loans for medical and dental students, Labour’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson David… ...
    2 days ago
  • Taxpayer the loser after Government folds
    Steven Joyce today admitted the main exhibition hall at the New Zealand International Convention Centre is 19 per cent smaller than what was described at the time other bidders were edged out of the process, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David… ...
    2 days ago
  • Govt’s lack of ambition for women
    Yesterday, the Government put out a media release entitled “Number of women leaders continues to grow”. It was to inform us that the percentage of women on state-appointed boards has increased to 41.7%, up from 41.1% in 2013. Well, woo-hoo… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • Auditor-General exposes Key’s scapegoating of Council
    The National Government's blaming of Auckland Council for the city’s housing crisis has been exposed as scapegoating in the Office of the Auditor-General’s latest report, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The Auditor-General says Auckland Council’s part in fixing the… ...
    3 days ago
  • Reform – not money – needed for meat sector
    The National Government continues to throw good money after bad at the meat industry instead of addressing the fundamental problem of its dysfunctional structure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The latest Primary Growth Partnership grant to the venison… ...
    3 days ago
  • Government cuts corners on school bus funding
    The safety of children – not cost cutting – should be the main objective behind the Government’s funding of school buses, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Buried in the detail of this year’s Budget are $19 million of funding… ...
    3 days ago
  • Women the losers under National’s cuts
    National’s poor performance in appointing women to state sector boards is set to get worse with funding cuts to the nomination service provided by the Ministry for Women, Labour’s Woman’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Minister for Women Louise Upston… ...
    3 days ago
  • Help sought by agencies now asked to help
    The organisation Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has tasked with setting up an emergency hotline for stranded Relationships Aotearoa clients has just lost a bid for a government contract to launch a new national helpline, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson… ...
    3 days ago
  • Wellington got loud again on climate
    On Monday night, in Wellington, I attended the last of the Government’s climate target consultation meetings. It was quite well attended with maybe 150 people, not bad for a second meeting with very little notice and, as far as I… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • Final nail in coffin for Solid Energy workers
    Today’s confirmation of job losses at Solid Energy’s Stockton and Spring Creek mines shows the urgent need for new economic opportunities on the West Coast, Labour’s MP for West Coast-Tasman Damien O’Connor says. “Our economy can no longer rely on… ...
    3 days ago
  • Ramadi proves Iraq deployment high risk, low benefit
    The fall of Ramadi and the collapse of the Iraqi Army proves Labour was right to be concerned about the deployment of our troops to Iraq, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “The fall of Ramadi brings IS fighters within… ...
    3 days ago
  • English admits new taxes on the cards
    Eight months after pledging “no new taxes” at the election Bill English today admitted he would bring in more sneaky taxes along the lines of the border tax, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Not only did National bring in… ...
    3 days ago
  • What the Dickens is going on at SDHB?
    Problems at the financially-strapped Southern District Health Board appear to stretch to its HR department with information obtained by Labour showing it still records staff leave entitlements using manual book-keeping methods. “The Board’s draft 10-year plan document forecasts a cumulative… ...
    3 days ago
  • Teachers turn backs on new professional body
      The fact that just 56 per cent of nominations for the Education Council came from registered teachers shows the profession has turned its back on Hekia Parata’s new professional body, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Answers to written… ...
    3 days ago
  • No spade work done on big building plan
      Only a quarter of the 500 hectares of Crown land the Government wants to use for new homes is understood to be suitable for building on, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “This was National’s bold new idea to… ...
    3 days ago
  • National: Seven KiwiSaver cuts in seven years
    National’s campaign of KiwiSaver cuts has reached seven in seven years as it dismantles KiwiSaver block by block, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “KiwiSaver is critical to establishing a savings culture in New Zealand but National has taken a jenga-style… ...
    3 days ago
  • Tolley’s actions contradict reassurances
    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has serious questions to answer following the forced closure of Relationships Aotearoa just days after her reassurances she was looking at ways to keep the service operating, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King says.… ...
    4 days ago
  • SkyCity downsize another broken promise
    The downsized SkyCity Convention Centre does not deliver on the promised iconic world-class centre and shows the true extent of Steven Joyce’s incompetence, Labour Leader Andrew Little said today. “New Zealanders were promised an iconic world-class convention centre that would… ...
    4 days ago
  • Te Arawa partnership model a step closer
    Councils around New Zealand have an opportunity to improve their consultation with Iwi Māori by following Rotorua District Council’s Te Arawa Partnership Model, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. “The Rotorua District Council will today decide whether to adopt… ...
    4 days ago
  • Labour mourns Dame Dorothy Fraser
    Labour Leader Andrew Little said the party is today mourning the loss of the youngest person to join the Labour Party, Dame Dorothy Fraser, who went on to be a stalwart of the Dunedin community and tireless worker for others.… ...
    4 days ago
  • The ultimate scapegoat: PM blames fruit fly for new tax
    The Prime Minister has found the ultimate scapegoat for breaking his promise not to introduce a new tax – the Queensland fruit fly, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “John Key’s first policy upon taking office and assigning himself the… ...
    5 days ago
  • How many victims missing out on protection?
    Hundreds of domestic abuse victims could be missing out on getting protection orders because they are unable to get legal aid, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.“In the last two years some 351 people who applied for legal aid for… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government kicks hardworking whanau
    A major incentive to help young Kiwis and people on low incomes to start saving has been kicked out from under them with the National-led Government ramming through short-sighted legislation under Urgency today, Labour’s Maori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says.… ...
    6 days ago
  • Speculator tax political stunt gone wrong
    Bill English’s admission he doesn’t know whether National’s new speculator tax will have any effect shows last weekend’s announcement by the Prime Minister was a desperate political stunt, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “This Government is so desperate to… ...
    6 days ago
  • The value of parenting
    This week, as part of the Budget, the government introduced a bill to address child poverty. This bill will require parents receiving income support to look for part-time work once their youngest child is three years of age rather than… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    7 days ago
  • Another new tax, another broken promise
    National has unveiled yet another new tax in this budget – a rural broadband levy that will almost certainly result in an immediate price hike for internet and telephone connections across New Zealand, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said “The… ...
    1 week ago
  • Anniversary of Sri Lankan Tamil Massacre
    This is not going to be a happy story but if the Green Party of Aotearoa doesn’t want to know who else will? May 18th marks the anniversary of what is known as the ‘Mullivaikal massacre’ of Tamils in 2009 at… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Labour MPs join youth to take part in 40 hour famine
    A team of Labour MPs took part in the 2015 World Vision 40 hour famine and we were told by World Vision and the young people, that it was the first time MPs had joined them and how appreciative they… ...
    1 week ago
  • Rodeo: ‘Family entertainment’ or animal abuse?
    Recently  TVNZ ran a story with confronting footage showing rodeo animals being punched, repeatedly shocked with electronic prods and having their tails violently twisted over their backs. It was clear that significant force was being used behind the scenes to make… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    1 week ago
  • Budget puts the squeeze on police
    The Government has cut funding to the New Zealand police force in the latest Budget, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “The reduction is a whopping $15.3 million that could put front line officers at risk. ...
    1 week ago
  • Crucial social services take another hit
    The Government looks set to slash half a million dollars of funding for critical social services, including Women’s Refuge and Barnados, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni “Taking $500,000 from organisations aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable families… ...
    1 week ago
  • Saying it Loud on Climate in Christchurch
    The Government’s Christchurch consultation meeting on New Zealand’s emission targets was inspiring – not for what was in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MFE’s) defeatist video about the obstacles to changing to a low carbon future, but for what the… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Budget silent on small business
    The Government has completely ignored one of the most important sectors of the economy – small and medium-sized enterprises – in Budget 2015, Labour’s Small Business spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. "A stunning 41 per cent of jobs were created by… ...
    1 week ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere