food shortages, weather patterns and prices

Overheard: a farmer complaining near Canberra that the entire vegetable crop of the farm is loaded in a container and shipped to China, They are not allowed by contract to sell any produce locally, nor in this country. How common is this, and it was worth a closer look for worldwide trends.

Co2Land org did not have to look too hard to find 3 trends that impact the commercial world of farming: Food Shortages, Implications of global weather, and Non Farmer induced price behaviours.

Originally posted by farminguk.com each of these trends were reported as separate items, but in tying them together it made an interesting study.

1. Food shortages ‘a major threat to global security’ 26-04-2012

The warning in the story is the concerns over global food supply. It is argued economic hardship; political instability and human conflict could be the future reaction to a poor food supply. It is stressed this is beyond the threat of hunger and malnutrition and extends into wider security concerns.

They talk of the need for policy directions to embrace developments in agricultural science and technology to avert the dangers of shocks and disruptions to the food supply system. That currently innovations in plant science is discouraged in the policy agenda.

CO2Land org did notice that the use of wording ‘anti-science EU policy agenda’ and assumes this as a covert attempt to promote GM foods.  In particular the words: “Innovations in plant science, from agricultural biotechnology to advanced crop protection products, offer major opportunities for Europe’s farmers to deliver sustainable gains in agricultural productivity. Yet such advances are currently discouraged by an anti-science EU policy agenda.”

The argument is national and international security risks of failing to tackle the global food supply crisis. Commissioned by the Crop Protection Association the UK Parliament was told “Food supplies must increase by at least 70% to keep pace with the demands of a world population set to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and the report highlights the urgent need to increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste and improve distribution networks….The report also recognises that increasing food production sustainably in a world of rising urbanisation and already strained natural resources will require access to the most advanced farming technologies and practices. ”

2. El Nino fading: Implications on global weather 27-09-2012

This post really startled: The implications of a wane of the weather patterns do not guarantee a change replenishing soil moisture for crops.

It would be reasonable to expect cooling surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific is the wane of El Niño atmospheric osolation.  And then comes the quote reported to be from Don Keeney, Senior Agricultural Meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather/CropCast. “It is true that we are seeing a fading El Niño, but this does not mean that we are automatically headed for La Niña,”

So how does this affect the global food situation? Again, to quote the source: “While the easing of El Niño makes the idea of drought-busting rains in the U.S. and ideal growing conditions in South America less certain, the current trend away from El Niño does imply that the tropical Pacific will have less influence on weather patterns in most areas”.

From this we can glean future weather patterns will continue to shift from being predictable ways of announcing rain and temperature events. This is explained as the effects of other circulation patterns called teleconnections. What are the implications of this pattern shift?  The answer is less certainty and increased variability making long-range forecasts more difficult and less reliable in estimating temperature and rainfall signals.

CO2Land org can now speculate the potential of countries with larger populations will do what they can to accumulate or guarantee food security. This includes buying the entire crops at the farm gate of one country to export to the other and even then process any excess to be imported by the originating country. The near Canberra farmer even mentioned it was believed that farms produce went to China was then sent to New Zealand processed and sent packaged back to Australia. We have no proof other than see if a comparative economic benefit exists it is possible to believe.

3. Current food supply could lead to severe price rises 26-07-2012

It would seem UK and Australia shares a common problem in the food industry. That being a small number of processors and retailers were dominating the industry and farmers were finding that they are struggling to keep afloat. The demands of dominate processors and retailers mean comparative economic advantage from one country to the next will be exploited and the consumer is partly to blame because they insist on paying less.

The post tells of how many farmers or too small to be of interest to supermarket chains and that small scale farmers are struggling to exist. It cannot legally be called restriction of trade; it is simply that the economies of scale required place very restrictive contracts conditions on farmers by way of what is required by supermarkets. Farmers then find the outlets for their produce are very limited and the price to get to market further erodes a reasonable return on the price consumers will pay.

My near Canberra farmer is large scale in the sense container loads are shifted and it does seem insane that the produce is grown locally, and sent to massive packing centres wherever before being transported back to local supermarkets. It also appears the large scale producer is under increasing pressure to continue to lower costs of production and increase the varieties that increase shelve life of the products.  It is conceivable that they like smaller farmers will find resilience not enough to stay in the market place. You could then ask if it is not the weather that will sink us for food security is it a lack of competition at the process and retail end that is the problem?

CO2Land org finds it must absolutely agree the issues and problem are many to use the weather pattern analogy it is teleconnections that are bring random and less easy predictors of how to best handle the problem of enough food. But no matter the comment it is difficult to go past the arguments that the food industry is full of short termism and the state of the market drives this behaviour. As is the debate on climate change we do need to address this, the changes in the environment and learn the market itself cannot be sustainable without political will to protect our long-term future.  But it is already too late!

 

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