ground- water, geo- statistics, environmental- engineering, earth- science

Food Prices Rising

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Food production is related to water because food does not grow without water. Since a little while rising food prices are on my radar screen. At first I thought, wow finally somebody (the UN and media covering the story, MSNBC, f.ex.) is talking about it. Then I saw another hockey stick curve, and those sure attract attention, not only since Al Gore’s talk. Then I saw this news-site, telling me how food is rationed in the US. This was the point when I decided to dig a little deeper — why is food getting more expensive?

Rising Food Prices

(from the Economist)

I found this really great german blog post, including great answers and links to other resources, where Don Dahlmann asks

Can somebody explain to me why on a global scale food is getting a) short and b) expensive right now? I’ve googled a bit, but I didn’t find a thing that would have helped me to understand. What’s behind this? Creating artificial shortages by companies with the goal of increase profits? An ecologic problem?

The funny thing is, you can read all those great resources, but I can still not find the real reason, or a real reason for that matter.

  • It seems to me if it was just population growth and hence more people eating more meat (“western standard”), then the cost increase for wheat would have been not that abrupt.
  • I also don’t think that the single reason for cost increase is farmers converting their crops to “bio-fuel”, because I think this is a western (US, and Europe to some extent) phenomenon, and prices also increase in other food-producing countries.
  • Is it a water distribution problem? Generally, there is enough water in the US and Europe for farming. Granted, some of the farming practices in the US (Mid-West or California) are not vastly sustainable, but generally there is water.
  • Is it a climate change phenomenon — were there any severely bad harvests on a global scale last year (due to extreme weather conditions happening)?
  • The food-companies are mentioned sometimes, but are also not linked conclusively to the recent cost-increase.

All in all, there seem to be a variety of reasons. Has the sum of all of them been enough to reach the “tipping point”? But, it seems to me, we are missing something! So I’m asking the same question as Don did, again: What is it?

Update [2008-05-18]: Here is the official explanation of the UN

Written by Claus

April 29th, 2008 at 1:52 am

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  1. Well, Claus, I also don’t think “bio-fuel” can be the single reason, but the phenomenon has definitely impacts on other countries than those in the wester hemisphere. So palm-oil or sugar cane can be imported and used for the production of “bio-fuel”. This can consume a considerable amount of agricultural area that can’t be used for food production anymore.


    29 Apr 08 at 6:47 am

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