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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Food security: Ending the year on a downer

Unlike last year before the crash there’s been little talk about food shortages in 2009 but it's my belief that this will change by spring/early summer 2010.

There have been a series of crop failures world wide with China, Australia, and Argentina all suffering long term droughts which have severely damaged grain production. India not only had a poor monsoon season but also heavy winds and rain damaging crops in their other growing season. All these problems could cause food issues during any normal year but it would also appear that the USDA has been cooking the books on crop yields to keep prices in check; a great ploy when you know it’s only going to be a short term blip but in this case it could be the fraud before the famine.

This article from Marketsceptics.com shows that 2009 USDA corn and soy predictions (in most cases) not only went up from earlier in the year but are also above the 5 year average making it look like a bumper year, so what’s the problem? Well it seems that the USDA is ignoring its own data on counties that have been declared Natural disaster areas,(areas suffering 30% or higher crop damage). In fact the in the 30 days before the article was written a staggering 274 counties were added to the list. An additional 66 counties were added on Christmas Eve, I guess they figured people would be too busy to notice.

Some areas just barely qualify for the 30% damage criteria but other counties are virtualy destroyed, making the USDA predictions that much more suspect.

Despite all these declared emergencies there have been no modifications to the already overly optimistic crop estimates. Come next spring it will become obvious that these predictions were bogus when shortages in corn and soy will begin to hit the markets. There is also potential for shortages in wheat, rice, and other grains due to both the U.S. and foreign disasters driving food inflation through the roof. As we saw in 2008, food shortages will lead to higher prices, a rush to hoard, the banning of exports which lead to more local shortages and last but certainly not least civil unrest.

Read the whole article and judge for yourself if there are reasons to worry, but other people such as the National Inflation Association is also predicting food shortages and high prices plus I’ve been telling you that we’ve been one bad crop away from problems for several years.

This is just another wake up call for the move towards localization and food self sufficiency, get involved in a local food movement, a transition town group, Food Not Lawns; Something! Also don't forget that next years food shortages will inevitably turn into 2011’s retail seed shortage. I would suggest buying one the several garden kit packages being offered that give you a wide selection of seeds packaged for long term storage. Some of these companies offer both northern and southern garden kits giving you the varieties more suited for your climate. I think the best deals out there are these collections from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds
I wish these guys had an associate program I’d love to join.

These seeds can be stored and will maintain their viability for years to come giving you the opportunity to either save money now gardening or prepare for your future food security. Learn to save seeds from each years crop and the benefit will be perpetual. Don’t leave it until too late, one of the companies I’ve listed before and purchase some of my own survival seeds from a few years ago increased their sales volumes by several times and ran out of seed last season. Many people see this trend and are acting.

If you don’t know how to grow your own food I’d recommend this book on gardening small spaces and this one on Seed saving

Food shortages are inevitable as we move along the peak oil path but are not solely dependant on peak oil. We can and will face shortages in the near future and we need to adapt now because the end of cheap oil will only make them that much worse in the coming decade.Recommend this Post


D said...

Great post, although, I find it a bit alarmist. Crop failures in Australia hit mainly wheat producing areas which will have the most impact on their national exports and the food security of Australian-wheat importers like India and Indonesia.

For citizens of western nations, ag-exporting countries like the Australia, Canada, EU and US - we ought to be concerned with how OUR agriculture feeds into the global industrial food complex which keeps sustainability at bay for everyone.

I do not believe that food insecurity will really be an issue for Canada for a long time - not in my lifetime. We're a food importing country with the ability to pay whatever it takes, that's why 3.00 cucumbers continue to sell in supermarkets in January. This only exacerbates the belief that Canada is food secure, which it really isn't. It has the potential to be and was at one point, but not anymore.

Local food movements should be encouraging exactly what you have suggested: seed saving, growing your own gardens and supporting local farmers. (That being said, local farming does not necessarily mean organic or ecologically sustainable farming either - and in some cases, the carbon footprint of Ecuadorian bananas is less than that of the Leamington Tomato).

GAB said...

I agree Canada as a whole is rich and can pay for what it eats, but a great many Canadians cannot afford it. Canadians are also largely incapable of feeding themselves with those things we can grow and may have to eat if the developing world restricts exports like India and Indonesia did last year with rice, or if those areas growing greens are force by governments to revert to local staples.

Food security is an individual problem and people need to hoard, grow or adapt to deal with it as many simply won't be capable of absorbing price increases. I don't trust our free market to aid the poor if prices skyrocket.