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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Even the rich can Starve

We often make the assumption that being a wealthy country allows us to consume as we wish but as this this article in The Age shows us you can't consume that which is not brought to market, as Japan is finding out with both a butter shortage and cash shortfalls for wheat imports.

Japan's acute butter shortage, which has confounded bakeries, restaurants and now families across the country, is the latest unforeseen result of the global agricultural commodities crisis.

A sharp increase in the cost of imported cattle feed and a decline in milk imports, both of which are typically provided in large part by Australia, have prevented dairy farmers from keeping pace with demand.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($A2.37 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining. It was forced to call on an emergency ¥55 billion reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

"This was the first time the Government has had to take such drastic action since the war," said Akio Shibata, an expert on food imports, who warned the Agriculture Ministry two years ago that Japan would have to cut back drastically on its sophisticated diet if it did not become more self-sufficient.

80% of Japanese polled fear for their food supply which considering they only rate a 39% for self sufficiency, it's a understandable fear.

While soaring food prices have triggered rioting among the starving millions of the third world, in wealthy Japan they have forced a pampered population to contemplate the shocking possibility of a long-term — perhaps permanent — reduction in the quality and quantity of its food.

For the last couple of weeks the story was all about how curbs on rice exports that would hurt poor dependant countries but now with Russia, Ukraine, Argentina and Kazakhstan reducing wheat exports even a rich economic powerhouse like Japan need fear for it's food future.

You have to wonder how long it will take the U.S. government to realize food is a weapon? "Gee, it sure would be a shame if we sold this wheat to some country that was supporting the dollar, propping up our banks, or taking part in the war on terror. "Recommend this Post

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