The storm is coming. One of the great dependables of modern life – cheap food – may be about to disappear. If a growing number of economists and scientists are to be believed, we are witnessing a historic transition: from an era when the basics of life have been getting ever more affordable, to a new period when they are ever more expensive.
Ah, no, I\’m afraid you\’ve not understood the projections. Yes, food is expected to become more exensive. But also more affordable at the same time.
For the driving force of the rise in food prices is expected to be that people are getting richer. Thus able to afford three squares a day, some of them even containing meat. The rise in incomes is expected to be greater than the rise in food prices: thus food becoming both more expensive and more affordable as a portion of incomes.
BTW, if you think that\’s not how the word affordable is used in such contexts then do speak to the booze puritans. They say exactly this: booze has become more expensive but cheaper as a portion of incomes: more affordable.
And if incomes do not rise as predicted we don\’t expect to see the food price rises. For it is not the idea of 10 billion people that is predicted to raise the prices. It\’s the idea of billions currently on $2 a day becomeing billions on $20 that is.
Crops grown to feed people directly currently take up just 4 per cent of the Earth’s available land surface; but crops to feed cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens account for 30 per cent – seven times as much.
I\’d love to know where that number comes from. For it it\’s true then there is no problem with food at all. A 30% rise in population should mean a 30% rise in land used to feed them at static (which certainly ain\’t gonna happen) productivity. So move to 5.5% of land surface feeding humans and 28.5% feeding animals and we\’re done aren\’t we? Which is why I think that number must be wrong: it\’s not quite so trivially simple.
Finally, there is the pernicious effect of speculation. About 80 per cent of the global food trade is now speculative, and firms such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank have spent billions gambling on the price of food, artificially driving up prices.
That\’s just fucking bollocks. Man should be ashamed to make such a stupid statement.
So what can we do? Well, first of all, more land will have to be used for food production. That means that, by 2060, we can expect to see the loss of most of the remaining African wilderness.
That\’s bollocks too. What we actually need to do is get productivity on all land up to the levels currently seen on the best farmed of it.
If this is what the science writers think about the subject then God help us all. They are supposed to actually understand the science, aren\’t they?