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Why Food Prices Are Skyrocketing

What's going on with food? Rice price has skyrocketed around the world, leading to riots in third world countries like Bangladesh, Haiti, Egypt, and the Philippines. Two large warehouse chains in the US (Costco and Sam's Club) have gone so far as to put a quota on how many bags of rice and flours you can buy.

Overall, the price of grocery has jumped tremendously (if you're the grocery shopper of the family, then you'd know what I'm talking about):

Many analysts expect consumers to keep paying more for food. Wholesale food prices, an indicator of where supermarket prices are headed, rose last month at the fastest rate since 2003, with egg prices jumping 60 percent from a year ago, pasta products 30 percent, and fruits and vegetables 20 percent, according to the Labor Department.

The culprit? The skyrocketing price of oil (obvious) and corn (now not a lot of people actually know about it):

Several factors contribute to higher food prices, analysts say, but none more than record prices for oil, which last week closed above $105 a barrel. Oil is not only driving up production and transportation costs, but also adding to demand for corn and soybeans, used to make alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

As a result, corn prices have more than doubled in commodity markets over two years, and soybeans nearly tripled, according to DTN, a commodities analysis firm in Omaha. Meanwhile, with poor harvests in major wheat-producing regions, wheat prices have more than tripled.

These crops have a profound impact on food prices because they form foundations for many products, including oils, sweeteners, and flour. Corn, for example, is a key ingredient in livestock feed. When the price of corn rises, so does the price of feed, and ultimately, so do the prices of meat, poultry, and eggs.

Robert Gavin of The Boston Globe has more: Link


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Willo the Wisp, your comment is based on some old myths about organic farming (that it somehow produces less per acre, generally not true), and on a common misapplication of technically "organic" techniques within an otherwise "conventional" agricultural practice (i.e. simply swapping technically "organic" fertilizer inputs for technically "nonorganic" inputs, so it still requires a large outside supply of expensive fertilizer; an optimal organic/biodynamic farm makes its own fertilizer, and the only major "input" is time and work.)

Well, this afternoon I'm going to do a bit more planting in my "organic" garden... which has cost me nothing this year other than about $30 for seeds and a few weekends worth of work.

Anyway, find some local farms near where you live. You may still be paying more than at the supermarket, even with the recent price increases, but you will be contributing to longer term stability and local economic health.
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How pointless is ethanol? Not only is it incredibly inefficient (it would be north of $6/gallon without subsidies) but it's incredibly unethical as well. Sorry, millions of Americans who aren't eating well (not to mention the billions worldwide), but we'd rather keep America rolling on our autos instead of doing the greater good.

The answer, which will take many years of complaining, lobbying, and possibly riots, is to get off of oil as much as possible. A regional train network instead of repaving the interstates every year would be step one.
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I've been studying precisely this problem with tremendous interest for over fifteen years, since halfway through getting my Environmental Studies degree.

The solution relates to the fact that it takes ten times the land to feed a typical meat-eater compared to a vegetarian. It also takes 100 times the water to produce meat compared to vegetables and grains.

If people quit killing animals for food, there would be more than enough agricultural land to feed us and to provide for our biofuel energy needs. Many of our other environmental problems would be greatly reduced or solved as well by the simple act of choosing vegetarian meals.
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