Clive Aslet doesn\’t seem to know whether he wants to scare us out of our shorts or whether it\’s all going to be just fine. Couple of minor quibbles:
Since 1997, the UK dairy herd has shrunk by 500,000 (22 per cent), vegetable production is down by 36,000 hectares and there are 3 million fewer pigs (a 40 per cent fall).
The thing is, none of those numbers are actually evidence of declining production of food, which is the bit we\’re interested in. They\’ve evidence of a decline in food producing units, whether land or animals, but that\’s not the same thing at all.
Now I agree, I\’ve not looked up the figures, I have no idea whether UK production of milk, vegetables or pork has fallen or not. But, as one example, we\’ve been told endlessly that each cow npow produces much more milk than it did a decade or two ago.
So pointing to a reduction in the size of the dairy herd is like pointing to the decline in mahufacturing jobs: all very interesting but not what is important. What we want to know is what has been the output of the nation\’s dairy herds: which might be up like manufacturing production and of course it might not be. But if it is up then that is, as with manufacturing, a cause for celebration: rising productivity is a good thing.
As ever, it will be the Africans who lose out. Despite fewer resources, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow even faster than that of the rest of the world, doubling from 1 billion to 2 billion. Already, overfarming has caused conflict: the war in Darfur began as a fight between pastoralists and arable farmers, provoked by the increase in size of the Sahara Desert. It could be a depressing augury for things to come. The Garden of Eden that was Zimbabwe has collapsed. Even in functional countries, 50 per cent of food rots before it reaches the consumer
What excellent news! So, all we\’ve got to do is create a decent logistical system in Africa and everything will be just fine? The food\’s already being grown, we just need to get it to people before it rots? Shades of the post-Soviet states really. They grow less, eat more and export more than they used to: the Soviet distribution system was so insanely wasteful that this has been possible.