Today I read:
Constant improvements in technology, mechanization, plant breeding and farm chemicals have steadily increased food production per acre, and for the last 30 years led to a world that we assumed would be awash in cheap food.
Yet world prices for wheat, corn, rice, soy, coffee, cotton, dairy products, meats, fruits and vegetables have suddenly reached record levels. Why now?
The answer starts with
- the half-billion new middle-class consumers in
- increasingly wish to emulate the rich diet that
- Westerners take for granted. And
- they have the cash to buy the food they want
- on the world market.
- Despite slowing growth rates, world population
- is nearing seven billion people and
- may reach nine billion mouths in less than 40 years.
- increases in the cost of oil have sent
- diesel fuel,
- fertilizers and
- farm chemical
- prices sky-high. Those added costs are now being passed on to consumers.
- [Forces] continue to cut back arable acreage[:]
- Environmental regulations,
- water scarcities and
- urban development.
- Constant improvements in
- Technology and
- now only marginally improve on past serial leaps in production.
- More than one-fifth of the American corn crop is now devoted to ethanol.
In short, the era of cheap food, like the age of cheap gas, may be about over.
The result is a growing revolution in the way we envision the economics of agriculture, and it should be reflected in the efforts of all nations to ensure much freer trade in food.
Source: Op-Ed Contributor – Harvesting Money in a Hungry World – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com, content reorganized, esp. paragraphs split into bulleted lists, by jcarroll.
So, what should we do?