Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13, 2010: Shortages

For over twenty years Tom and I have harvested and dehydrated Italian Prunes from our neighbor's decades-old tree. We've taken the lovely fruits for granted. Heavy spring rains knocked the blossoms right off the tree this year and not one single fruit grew. Not one.

On Monday we learned from our local farm market that the same rains greatly diminished the apple, hazelnut, and walnut crops as well. Though I didn't inquire about other crops, I'm sure most - if not all - were effected. Thankfully there are still plenty of apples, though diligence was required to ensure we had our large bag of unshelled walnuts for the year.

Cassie's teacher at the culinary institute informed the class this week that worldwide grain crops suffered a similar fate. For one thing, the wheat harvest is 20% of normal. Yes, worldwide. According to Chef Chris, prices of flour will triple by February as will dairy, beef, and chicken prices. Triple. If full crops return next year, it will take at least two years for things to normalize. Because the U.S. will have less to share with other countries, hunger will increase for dependent nations.

Today I am thankful - most grateful! - for the blessings of food choices available. An already full freezer of grass-fed beef and organic, free-range chickens gives me pause. There were no grains involved in the raising of this meat. None. The prices for such 'elite meat' are higher than conventional meats - today. It will be interesting to watch whether feed-lot meat prices surpass grass-fed. I've read that currently there isn't enough 'elite meat' for everyone.

I hope and pray that it's not as bad as predicted. Judging from my aforementioned experiences, it seems lean years could very well be forthcoming. Human beings exhibit amazing resilience and creativity. Compassion wells up in hearts pulling together. So do greed and selfishness.

Responsibility is called for. The ability to respond. I shall make room in my freezer for a few extra bags of flour alongside the meat and vegetables currently resting in frozen slumber. A little extra everything will be squirreled away for those in need.

Should shortages occur here in the United States, let's be gracious, shall we?

1 comment:

The Social Thatcherist said...

I see this more as a short-term issue. The rise in food prices this year entices farmers to grow more food the next.

Shortages aren't going to be a problem until world population grows faster than agricultural technology can keep up with. That is to some extent the state of affairs in the world today but we still have a long way to fall before it becomes a crisis - when it does, it's not going to be pleasant but I'll leave it to Thomas Malthus to explain.

I think it's also worth mentioning that Amartya Sen teaches us that famines - the worst case of food shortages - rarely happen as a result of genuine shortage of food supply; they tend to happen when people can't acquire that food because of extreme poverty, misplaced government intervention, and underdeveloped infrastructure to name a few examples.