PowerSwitch Main Page
PowerSwitch
The UK's Peak Oil Discussion Forum & Community
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Why world food prices may keep climbing
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    PowerSwitch Forum Index -> Living in the Future
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
PowerSwitchJames



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 929
Location: London

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:11 pm    Post subject: Why world food prices may keep climbing Reply with quote

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/10/world-food-prices-climbing

In February, world food prices reached the highest level on record. Soaring food prices are already a source of spreading hunger and political unrest, and it appears likely that they will climb further in the months ahead.

As a result of an extraordinarily tight grain situation, this year's harvest will be one of the most closely watched in years. Last year, the world produced 2,180 million tons of grain. It consumed 2,240 million tons, a consumption excess that was made possible by drawing down stocks by 60 million tons. To avoid repeating last year's shortfall and to cover this year's estimated 40-million-ton growth in demand, this year's world grain harvest needs to increase by at least 100 million tons. Yet that would only maintain the current precarious balance between supply and demand.

To get prices back down to a more acceptable level, it would take perhaps another 50 million tons for a total increase of 150 million tons. Can the world boost this year's grain harvest by 150 million tons or even 100 million tons? It is possible, because we have had annual harvest jumps of 150 million tons twice over the last two decades, but this year it does not appear likely.

In assessing the world grain harvest prospect, we focus on the big three grains -- rice, wheat, and corn -- that together account for nearly 90 percent of the harvest. Barley, oats, sorghum, rye, and millet make up the remainder.

We start by looking at rice because, as an irrigated crop, its production fluctuates little. The average annual gain in the world rice harvest, which totaled 452 million tons last year, has been 7 million tons. Let's assume that we get a 10 million ton gain in rice this year.

Wheat, now the world's leading food grain, is much more difficult to assess because so much of the harvest is rain-fed, making yields as variable as the rainfall. But since most wheat is winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, is dormant in winter, and resumes growth in early spring, we know that this year the wheat area planted is up by 3 percent. We also have an early sense of the crop's condition.

We begin with the big four wheat producers -- China, India, the United States, and Russia -- which collectively produce half the world's wheat. China, the leading wheat producer, was until very recently suffering the worst drought in its winter wheat-growing region in 60 years. Although rain and snow in late February and early March rains and snow have lessened the drought effect, we could easily see China's wheat harvest drop from 115 million tons last year to 110 million tons this year. India officially expects an 82-million-ton harvest, up 1 million tons from last year.

In the United States -- the third ranking wheat producer -- the southern Great Plains are suffering from drought. As of the end of February, the U.S. winter wheat crop condition was among the worst in the last 20 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the harvest will drop from 60 million tons to 56 million, and this may be conservative.

Russia's wheat harvest should be up sharply from last year's heat-devastated crop of 42 million tons. But last fall it was too dry to plant one fifth of its winter wheat, which means many more farmers will plant lower-yielding spring wheat -- wheat that is planted in the spring and is harvested in the late summer or early fall. With a little luck, Russia should harvest roughly 58 million tons of wheat.

Adding in the rest of the world's expected wheat production, can we match last year's world wheat harvest figure of 645 million tons? We should exceed it. The International Grains Council estimates this year's harvest at 672 million tons, up by 27 million tons over 2010. This contrasts with the Canadian Wheat Board estimate of 653 million tons, a gain of only 8 million tons. For calculation purposes, let us assume that this year's wheat harvest is up by 20 million tons for a total of 665 million tons.

Now for corn. Two countries tell the story here: the United States and China, which produce 40 and 20 percent, respectively, of the 814-million-ton world corn harvest. Combining the expected 4 percent increase in U.S. planted area with a 10-ton-per-hectare yield, the U.S. corn harvest could increase by 25 million tons. China's corn harvest, which has fluctuated around 165 million tons for the last three years, is not likely to increase given its tight water situation. For the remaining 40 percent of the corn harvest, we will assume a gain of 15 million tons. All together this takes the world harvest up by 40 million tons.

Let's review the global numbers. It will take 100 million tons of additional grain just to maintain the current precarious situation and close to 150 million tons to restore some semblance of stability in the world grain market. We can count on a 10-million-ton increase in this year's rice harvest. We are hoping for a 20-million-ton rise with wheat and a 40-million-ton jump in corn. Let us also assume that minor cereals increase by 10 million tons over last year. This would give us a total increase of 80 million tons, not enough to prevent further price rises.

Estimating world grain production is becoming more complex and difficult. On the demand side of the equation, there are three sources of growth: the addition of 80 million people per year, some 3 billion people moving up the food chain consuming more grain-intensive livestock products, and the massive conversion of grain to fuel ethanol in the United States.

On the supply side, there was a time when grain production was on the rise almost everywhere. That world is now history. In a number of countries, grain harvests are shrinking because of aquifer depletion and severe soil erosion. Rising temperatures are also taking a toll. And some agriculturally advanced countries have run out of new technology to raise land productivity.

In 18 countries containing half the world's people, overpumping for irrigation is depleting aquifers. Among the countries where harvests are falling as aquifers are depleted are Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. World Bank data for India indicate that 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping, which by definition is a short-term phenomenon. The comparable number for China is 130 million people.

In some countries such as Mongolia and Lesotho, grain production has fallen by half or more in recent decades as severe soil erosion has led to wholesale cropland abandonment. In North Korea and Haiti, soil erosion is undermining efforts to raise output.

In several agriculturally advanced countries, the backlog of unused technology has largely disappeared. Japan's rice yield per acre has not increased for 16 years. China's rice yield, now approaching that in Japan, may also be about to level off.

In France, Europe's leading wheat producer, yields have been flat for a decade. Wheat yields have also plateaued in Germany and the United Kingdom. In Egypt, Africa's leading wheat producer, wheat yields have been flat for six years.

At this point, it seems unlikely that we will get the 100-million-ton grain harvest increase this year that would be needed just to maintain the current rather precarious situation. Instead, it looks more likely that we will reduce stocks further. It may be somehow possible to avoid a rise in world food prices in the months ahead, but at this point it seems unlikely
_________________
www.PowerSwitch.org.uk

'Being green is not what you think, it is what you do.'
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
adam2
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Jul 2007
Posts: 6661
Location: North Somerset

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A bit worrying, I therefore find it suprising that wheat prices have fallen sharply in recent days.
I would expect that new records will be set in the months to come.
_________________
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
RenewableCandy



Joined: 12 Sep 2007
Posts: 12592
Location: York

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

God I feel hungry just reading all this...
_________________
Soyez réaliste. Demandez l'impossible.
Stories
The Price of Time
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
madibe



Joined: 23 Jun 2009
Posts: 1595

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

adam - prices keep falling... ditto with oil. I reckon it is just the BAU mentality and head in the sand... it will all be fine, y'know.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
adam2
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Jul 2007
Posts: 6661
Location: North Somerset

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
God I feel hungry just reading all this...


I dont, Very Happy just enjoyed a nice meal, with wine and a little port, but not too much as it is alleged to cause gout.
More seriously, I have stocks of food and other plans, what more can one do ?
_________________
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
kenneal - lagger
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Sep 2006
Posts: 10360
Location: Newbury, Berkshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

adam2 wrote:
..... what more can one do ?


Keep telling other people the story. If you're lucky, one in ten people will get it. Well that's one less person to worry about in the future.

I'm buying another 20kg of wheat, just in case.
_________________
"When the last tree is cut down, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find out that you cannot eat money". --The Cree Indians
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
CountingDown



Joined: 23 Aug 2008
Posts: 447
Location: Adrift in the UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kenneal wrote:
adam2 wrote:
..... what more can one do ?


Keep telling other people the story. If you're lucky, one in ten people will get it. Well that's one less person to worry about in the future.

I'm buying another 20kg of wheat, just in case.


Where do you get your wheat from Ken?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
nexus



Joined: 16 May 2009
Posts: 1307

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Keep telling other people the story. If you're lucky, one in ten people will get it. Well that's one less person to worry about in the future.


Yay! I spoke to a friend this week and she got it. She actually said 'if you're worried, then I'm worried, what should I do?'

I think one in ten is about right. I can never get over the power of denial. In recent weeks I've had- 'we'll be fine, we've got the North Sea', 'we'll have fusion soon' and 'I think that all that peak oil stuff is exaggerated'.

I'm trying to bring it up more and more with people I know, especially in the light of ME unrest/revolutions and rising food and fuel costs. Haven't lost any friends yet. Is anyone else upping the amount they try and talk to other people about it?
_________________
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
kenneal - lagger
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Sep 2006
Posts: 10360
Location: Newbury, Berkshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nexus wrote:
Is anyone else upping the amount they try and talk to other people about it?


Went to the first meeting of the local Greening Campaign last night so will hopefully get to a few moe people with that.
_________________
"When the last tree is cut down, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find out that you cannot eat money". --The Cree Indians
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
kenneal - lagger
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Sep 2006
Posts: 10360
Location: Newbury, Berkshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

andrew-l wrote:
Where do you get your wheat from Ken?


from up your way, Andrew, and I bought our hand milll from them as well - http://www.browfarmwheatproducts.co.uk/bread_wheat.htm
_________________
"When the last tree is cut down, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find out that you cannot eat money". --The Cree Indians
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
biffvernon



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 18546
Location: Lincolnshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nexus wrote:
Is anyone else upping the amount they try and talk to other people about it?

I gave a talk to the village Women's Institute last week. I started by pointing out that some of the poetry by their beloved William Blake was a good deal more apocalyptic than Jerusalem. Trouble is, although they all knew the words of Jerusalem and sung it with gusto, I'm not sure they knew who Blake was or what I was on about. The Q&A session got diverted into questioning the Environment Agency's competency in clearing the drains.
_________________
http://biffvernon.blogspot.co.uk/
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
kenneal - lagger
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Sep 2006
Posts: 10360
Location: Newbury, Berkshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diversion therapy! Works every time.
_________________
"When the last tree is cut down, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find out that you cannot eat money". --The Cree Indians
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
treaclemine



Joined: 22 Jan 2008
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:41 pm    Post subject: Demand side Reply with quote

On the demand side of the equation, there are three sources of growth: the addition of 80 million people per year, some 3 billion people moving up the food chain consuming more grain-intensive livestock products, and the massive conversion of grain to fuel ethanol in the United States.

What can we do to 'turn down the heat' in food price inflation by - humanely! - working on the demand side?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
emordnilap



Joined: 05 Sep 2007
Posts: 14116
Location: Houǝsʇlʎ' ᴉʇ,s ɹǝɐllʎ uoʇ ʍoɹʇɥ ʇɥǝ ǝɟɟoɹʇ' pou,ʇ ǝʌǝu qoʇɥǝɹ˙

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TEQs/Cap&Share.
_________________
"Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fụck the Buddhists" - Bjork
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
energy-village



Joined: 22 Apr 2008
Posts: 1054
Location: Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We already have rationing (by price or highest bidder). But I agree we need a fairer system or there is going to be chaos as living and energy costs soar.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    PowerSwitch Forum Index -> Living in the Future All times are GMT + 1 Hour
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
Page 1 of 5

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group