Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food Prices

About 2 years ago I realized that food has to take a more central role in our life. Certainly I placed food close to the center of my thoughts. Very slowly - at the pace of a turtle - I am taking mini-steps to deal with this. The key reasons for putting more focus and emphasis on food is the continuing erosion of quality of food in the market. Every year, food products are more industrial, more artificial, more polluted, more genetically modified, less transparent in respect to their ingredient list, and so forth. That boils down that we need higher quality food with better nutrition for a better health. Secondly, food has to move more into our focus due to quantitative problems and distribution problems that are foreshadowed. That means we need more local food and more self-grown food. Peak oil will let food production cost rise drastically. Last year food cost has risen 30%. Imagine in a year with little official inflation, food prices have soared. See this article entitled "Will increasing food prices lead to more revolution?". Rich people like us in the "developed" world spend a small percentage on food, and we did not notice the 30% increase. But poor people that spend 50% of the income on food have painfully and instantly noticed.

Peak oil will not only cause food production (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to become more expensive, but also transport costs will increase drastically. Add to that issues like peak phosphorus, peak water, peak arable land, etc. The good way out or at least a form of insurance policy to this upcoming storm is to engage in a more local food economy. In short, it seems to be a good idea to make friends with local farmers, know where to buy fruits or eggs. Join a local food basket service. And lastly, we must grow a little bit of our own food. I took some courses on gardening and food conservation. I always sharpen my ears when I meet people who grow their own food. This year I will also start with a tiny 2 square yard vegetable garden. These are all tiny baby steps. With a 2 square yard garden I will not be able to produce any noticeable amount of food for my family. It will literally be a drop in the bucket. It might be 1% of our family food consumption. Still, 1% is 1%. I also have to look into the future. I will learn a skill, i.e. farming. Maybe next year I can do 2%. Anyhow, it is crystal clear to me that local food supply and home grown food are essential to a sane life style. I recommend container gardening and square foot gardening to everyone. I hope to see green roof tops and back yards that replace lawns with veggie beds in the near future. I would not mind seeing a certain amount of the Cuba-approach around here.

Not everyone will agree with me. Have a look at this OilDrum articles entitled "The Fallacy of Reversibility" that argues that in the future due to peak oil there will be even more industrial, even larger-scale agrobusiness. One can join this opinion or not, but even if we follow this argument, it is clear that the final cost of this even more industrial, even larger agro-business will be carried by the consumer. In short, even in this scenario, or better said, especially in this scenario, the food prices will go up.

Food is so close to the human heart and soul, there are many things we can live without, but food is not one of them. Instead of outsourcing it to others (agro-business, big chain supermarkets) we should keep this core skill within our family or at least within our community. And on top of that we should mentally prepare for further price hikes,

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