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Mega Trend In Food Supply

Posted by: pjeanty

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The New Geopolitics of Food. Did you read this article in Foreign Policy Magazine? Definitely a must read regardless of how busy you are. It is the kind of mega trend to get your head around as fast as possible. Understand what it means to you on a personal level. It will be your children's global/local context.

Do you remember when the first signs of trouble came in 2007? Farmers began having difficulty keeping up with the growth in global demand for grain. Grain and soybean prices started to climb, tripling by mid-2008. I felt it at my local grocery store prices. Many exporting countries restricted exports in an attempt to control the rise of domestic food prices. Among them were Russia (wheat), Argentina (wheat) and Vietnam (rice).

Some affluent countries, (Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and China)  took the unusual step in 2008 of buying or leasing land in other poor countries on which to grow and export grain out for their own national consumption. A 2010 World Bank analysis of these "land grabs" reported that a total of nearly 140 million acres were involved .

1) Accelerating growth in demand 2) difficulty of rapidly expanding production supply are identified as the main drivers for this food price surge.

Everything from falling water tables to eroding soils and the consequences of global warming means that the world's food supply is unlikely to keep up with global demand. The rule of thumb among crop ecologists is that for every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature above the growing season optimum, farmers can expect a 10 percent decline in grain yields. That's the global warming impact on farming. United States is converting grain into ethanol at a growing rate. Maybe good for the planet, not so good for the hungry inhabitants.

The Middle East, with its political challenges, is the first geographic region where grain production capped and begun to decline due to water shortages, even as the population continues to grow. Grain production is down in Syria and Iraq and Yemen may soon be next. In that neighborhood, any water extracted from the upper Nile River basin to irrigate affecting countries downstream is potential for conflict. But the serious cases ahead are in India and China.

This global mega trend shows a transition from an era of food surpluses to a new politics of food scarcity. How will this play out? What does it mean to you? How do you leverage this mega force?