Posts Tagged ‘food security’

“Global food prices are at record highs, driven by huge increases in the price of wheat, corn, sugar, dairy and oils. A complex mix of factors simultaneously boosting demand and constraining supply means the recent price surges might be just the beginning”. Below is a list of some of the main factors on the demand and supply side:

DEMAND

  • continuing rapid population growth, especially in so-called developing countries, means rising demand for food (we’re close to reaching 7 billion people on this planet this year, with 9.5 billion predicted by 2050, which will be a 300% increase on 1950s’ figures)
  • rising prosperity, especially in Asia and Brazil: wealthier people eat differently compared to poorer people, and they eat more and are willing and able to pay more for food; meat and dairy consumption has been growing rapidly and dietary pattern developed in Western countries over centuries have shifted in developing countries in decades
  • the arrival of new investors in food commodity markets (including large pension funds), being attracted by higher profits as a result of higher food prices

Supply

  • ever-increasing production of biofuels: a result of peak oil, rising fossil fuel demands from growing economic power houses like China, India and Brazil, climate change concerns, misguided and unsustainable government policies and economic interventions, profiteering by energy companies and other factors that made energy prices shoot up; all have led to a reduction in available areas dedicated to growing food and diverting millions of tons of cereals away from food markets
  • climate impacts, having led to weather related crop destruction over the last few years in main food producing countries like Russia, the US and Australia
  • the so-called Green Revolution that started to deliver increasing outputs since the 1960 is coming to the end of its life cycle
  • urbanisation and pollution are contributing to a growing scarcity of land and water; it is predicted that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas under water stress if current trends aren’t being reversed (and that will not just affect to so-called developing world)
  • government policies, especially restrictions and bans on food exports having negative consequences on food availability

Interesting times ahead, not just for food supply but also for whatever exists as world peace …

Source: SMH

The following is the text of a talk given by Jorge Soberon, Cuba’s Consul General in Toronto, Canada, to a meeting of food sovereignty sponsored by the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition (CVEC).

[“Food sovereignty” is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmers, peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, rural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces. See additional information at the end of this article.]

cuban market
Farmer’s market in Havana; Source: cityfarmer.org

As a sovereign country, Cuba is working to develop its food industry and reduce dependence on food imports.

Cuba is working to ensure an adequate level of food to more than 11 million inhabitants. In Cuba no one is helpless or dying of hunger. There are special programs to ensure food for the most vulnerable segments of the population.

To achieve this goal, Cuba faces high world market prices and the growing negative effects of climate change and the policy of the United States.

Food imports from the United States continue to be affected by insecurity. They are subject to strict supervision and licensing for export and transportation of agricultural products to our country. Moreover, Cuba has no access to the technologies available in the United States or to credit from that country.

The Cuban government has identified food production as a major task and a matter of utmost national security. More than half of the agricultural land in Cuba is held by non-governmental organizations.

Due to the demise of the Soviet Union and the strengthening of the blockade of the United States during the 90s, Cuba faced an economic crisis that forced us to seek solutions to our national food production.

Thus the urban agriculture in Cuba, a country where 75% of its population lives in urban areas, but an important part comes from the countryside and has farming culture.

Urban agriculture is carried out throughout the country and is planned taking into account the number of inhabitants of each town or city. The organic matter that is used and the biological controls in place makes it possible to preserve the fertility of the soil. The available area is used to produce food in an intensive manner. Science and technology are applied, maintaining a supply of fresh products, all with the goal of obtaining a balanced production of agricultural products.

Urban agriculture is an important source of income, due to the demand of the popular market, the workplaces, and special places that exist to take care of vulnerable populations. The high educational level of the people facilitates the rapid assimilation of new techniques and technologies. Urban agriculture constitutes a major source of urban nutrition, contributes to the elimination of urban rubbish dumps and constitutes an important source of employment. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have jobs in urban agriculture. In Cuba, urban agriculture is supported by seed houses and agricultural centres of production of organic matter.

Foods obtained through urban agriculture constitute an important amount of the total consumed by the population in cities, in addition to other options like imported food or food guaranteed by the state.

The system of urban agriculture in Cuba produced more than 1.4 million tons of food in 2008, in more than nine thousand hectares located in all municipalities. In 10 years, vegetable production increased six times over.

Three factors have been crucial to their advancement: Training of the workforce. The system of payment to workers by the end results of labour. Systematic evaluation of the results.

Urban agriculture is one of the best alternatives for the restoration of food production after the passage of hurricanes, allowing the recovery of agricultural production in few months.

Among the recent steps taken to further develop agricultural production is the distribution of vacant land for its use, for those that can produce food. At present, Cuba is modernizing its food industry to increase the ability to process and preserve agricultural products.

The development of agriculture in Cuba receives strong support from the state. The actions taken contribute to food security and adequate nutrition. The goal is not only to produce food, but also to make it affordable and accessible to the population. The habit of consuming vegetables has grown and generates jobs and income, product prices are competitive and urban agriculture has improved hygiene and sanitation of the cities by developing agriculture in areas that are abandoned.

In addition, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA: Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela) is a tool for agricultural and rural development of nations of the region and aims to ensure access to fair and stable prices of basic foods through cooperation on food sovereignty and security.

Cuba will continue to work and cooperate with other countries to ensure the solution of dietary and nutritional needs for all its people, protecting and enhancing thereby the living standards of the Cuban people and other peoples and promoting national initiatives to ensure our sovereignty and independence in food production and distribution.

[Thanks for this to Suzanne Weiss of CVEC.]

[Via Climate and Capitalism]

cuba herbs
Herbs and spices production; Source: cityfarmer.org

Supplement

Via Campesina’s seven principles of food sovereignty include:

  1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decisionmaking on food and rural issues.

Food sovereignty is increasingly being promoted as an alternative framework to the narrower concept of food security, which mostly focuses on the technical problem of providing adequate nutrition. For instance, a food security agenda that simply provides surplus grain to hungry people would probably be strongly criticised by food sovereignty advocates as just another form of commodity dumping, facilitating corporate penetration of foreign markets, undermining local food production, and possibly leading to irreversible biotech contamination of indigenous crops with patented varieties. U.S. taxpayer subsidized exports of Bt corn to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA is a case in point.

[Wikipedia]

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map_world_hunger

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 1 billion people on the planet (or 1/6 of the human population) do not have to enough to sustain themselves; in other words they suffer from hunger, malnutrition and all related after-effects. And while the wealthy countries’ governments are busy spending tax money on bailing out their rich upper class peers, the situation for those 1.02 billion is getting worse.

Australia for example promised to spend a meagre 0.5% of gross national income (GNI) on international aid by 2015 BUT, because that income isn’t rising as fast as predicted, even that half a percent will be less money for the poor than projected – a result of international bankers and other shady figures, including those in government, having ripped the heart of the world’s economy.

This is a particularly poor performance by this country given that it is a relatively rich island in a poor neighbourhood: 642 million of the total number of those who don’t have enough to eat live in the Asia-Pacific region (a further 265 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 52 million in in the Middle East and north Africa and even the euphemistically called ‘developed’ countries have their share of 15 million hungry people).

Originally the FAO expected a better than expected food supply and had lowered its estimate for the world’s hungry from 963 million to 915 million. However, the organisation’s head Jacques Diouf now says that a “dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people that last year into chronic hunger and poverty”. And this year the number of the hungry is “expected” to  grow by another 11%! (I wonder how Jacques must feel when he talks about the hungry poor while sitting on a US$250-300,000 base salary).

What always amazes me is the clinically clean and detached language used by those ‘activist’ bureaucrats to describe the causes for poverty and hunger: economic crisis, global economic slowdown, high national food prices, reductions in expected food supply. These are words that won’t change anything, certainly not in terms of the structure that causes the growing gap between the rich and poor, the North and South, the haves and havenots. It is a structure based on exploitation of the bottom by the top, competition for power and wealth in which the poor count nothing, and a patriarchy that has never known values such as care, empathy, compassion and respect and instead thrives on greed, warfare and violence.

Patriarchy is a large contributor to economic and social injustice, wars and violence. The vast majority of those suffereing from hunger and poverty are women and children, and the vast majority of those involved in wars, oppression and other callous and violent acts against others and the environment are men.

As long as these bureaucratic hunger managers on fat salaries don’t sacrifice large chunks of their salaries and get their hands dirty in helping the poor hands-on plus have the courage to name the real structural causes of suffering, adversity and injustice, nothing will change. And it’s a similar case for the rest of us: if we don’t get up collectively to do our part to overthrow this exploitative, unjust and violent system of privilege and power, neither poverty nor injustice will disappear on either side of our doorstep. If we don’t change, nothing else will change, and in the end we all might join the big suffering when our most consequential violence, the one against nature, takes its big toll.

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gmProtestsIndia3
Abhiyan (Seed Freedom Movement) protest against GM

By Priya Kumar
Global Research

“Over 100,000 farmers have committed suicide…” – a very comprehensive and insightful article on India’s agriculture and the immeasurable damage international trade rules, multi-national agro-business conglomerates and the Indian government have inflicted on the traditional farming culture and its people.

Introduction

The reality for the average Indian remains the same: agricultural cultivation and the ability to farm is the bedrock of rural living. With its historical practices, values, and communal sentiments of respect, cultivation and the practice of farming has embedded roots. Farming for Indians is not only a source of income – it is a source of culture and identity. Since the late 1990s however, Indian governmental officials have wilfully compromised this sentiment for the ‘bright lights’ associated with the West.

After over a decade of trade liberalization and free market reforms, mainstream economic development has left rural India to fend for itself. Amidst great levels of industrialization and growth, the vast majority of Indians have been left behind. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for some 70% of Indians[1]. Considering the fact that only 1% of Americans and 2-3% of Europeans derive their livelihood from agriculture, this is a huge level of dependence[2].

India’s desire to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the adoption of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) specifically has compromised the livelihood of farmers. With the adoption of such neo-liberal policies, the sovereignty of rural India has been threatened. TRIPs in particular has created a gateway for agro-business conglomerates to engage in biopiracy and GM seed monopolization, effectively marginalizing rural communities. Through the manipulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs), conglomerates such as Monsanto have put rural farmers on the defensive. This paper highlights the manipulative nature and destabilizing affects of patents, IPRs and agro-business conglomerates in the context of rural India. Special focus is placed upon the infamous Basmati rice case, and Bt cotton, the first GM seed made available to Indian farmers.

Through these case studies, this paper will illustrate both the intent and impact of agro-business conglomerates and the associated costs incurred by farmers. Centuries of indigenous knowledge, tradition cultivation practises and sharing techniques are being compromised. Many farmers have lost their right to cultivate and control the agricultural production cycle. As a result, farmers increasingly find themselves indebt, disempowered and most alarming, suicidal. With approximately one in every four farmers globally being Indian, the rural lifestyle – the cultural origins of India are being threatened[3]. Agro-business conglomerates are promoting a cycle of dependence, which, if not stopped will carry with it disastrous affects for the entire country.

(more…)

The list represents a collection of recent articles by the Global Research Institute:

Sid Shniad, Daniel Estulin, James Petras & Russ Baker on The Global Research News Hour– Host: Stephen Lendman. Program Details, June 1-5 – 2009-06-05

Biopiracy, GM Seeds & Rural India

– by Priya Kumar – 2009-06-02
.



The Economic Crisis in Australia

– by Peter Murray – 2009-06-01

Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He’s Bailing Out?

– by Mark Ames – 2009-06-01

Grand Theft Auto: The Bankruptcy of General Motors

– by Greg Palast – 2009-06-01
.

We Can’t Break Up the Financial Giants . . . Or Can We?

– by Washington’s Blog – 2009-06-01

“The True Story of the Bilderberg Group” and What They May Be Planning Now

A Review of Daniel Estulin’s book
– by Stephen Lendman – 2009-06-01


Danger of Military Conflict over Arctic? Battle For Resources May Intensify

– 2009-06-01

Homeland Security to Scan Fingerprints of Travellers Exiting the US

– by Brett Winterford – 2009-05-31

World Farmers’ alliance Challenges Food Profiteers

Review of Annette Aurélie Desmarais’ book
– by John Riddell – 2009-05-31

Is Obama Truly Serious on Ending Failed “War on Drugs”

– by Sherwood Ross – 2009-05-31

Iraq: The Return of the Resistance

– by Dahr Jamail – 2009-05-31

(more…)

civilization-food-shortages

The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. These are the key concepts of an article in this month’s Scientific American:

  • Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
  • Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
  • Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
  • Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

To read the full article, click on this link.

The earth’s surface is covered to 70% by water of which only 3% are drinkable. No wonder large multi-nationals are muscling in on controlling this resource, which will become economically even more valuable as the climate disaster will make it more scarce in many parts of the world. With oil production having moved moved past its peak, water will become the new ‘oil’ in terms of profiteering and vandalising the environment.

ISTANBUL – A global ministerial meeting was putting the final touches here Saturday to resolutions for tackling the world’s water crisis but activists attacked the process as a corporate-driven fraud.

h2oistanbulThe communique to be issued by more than 100 countries on World Water Day on Sunday climaxes a seven-day gathering on how to provide clean water and sanitation for billions and resolve worsening water stress and pollution.

“The world is facing rapid and unprecedented global changes, including population growth, migration, urbanization, climate change, desertification, drought, degradation and land use, economic and diet changes,” according to a draft seen by AFP.

The document, which is non-binding, spells out a consensus for boosting cooperation to ease trans-boundary disputes over water, preventing pollution and tackling drought and floods. It also describes access to safe drinking water and sanitation as “a basic human need.” France, Spain and several Latin American countries were striving to beef up this reference, from “need” to “right,” a change that could have legal ramifications.

But campaigners representing the rural poor, the environment and organized labor blasted the communique as a sideshow, stage-managed for corporations who are major contributors to the World Water Council, which organizes the Forum.

Maude Barlow, senior adviser to the president of the UN General Assembly, said the Forum promoted privatization of resources by “the lords of water” and excluded dissident voices. She called for the meeting to be placed under the UN flag. “We demand that the allocation of water be decided in an open, transparent and democratic forum rather than in a trade show for the world’s large corporations,” Barlow told a press conference.

(more…)

The following Market Skeptics article by Eric deCarbonnel assesses this year’s proposed global food shortages by looking closer at food production predictions for countries and continents around the globe – and the conclusion is grim: we’re heading towards a catastrophe. Does that mean we’re looking at a ‘Peak Food’ phenomenon, similar to ‘Peak Oil’?

Catastrophic Fall in 2009 Global Food Production

Market Skeptics, February 9, 2009
by Eric deCarbonnel

After reading about the droughts in two major agricultural countries, China and Argentina, I decided to research the extent other food producing nations were also experiencing droughts. This project ended up taking a lot longer than I thought. 2009 looks to be a humanitarian disaster around much of the world

To understand the depth of the food Catastrophe that faces the world this year, consider the graphic below depicting countries by USD value of their agricultural output, as of 2006.

Now, consider the same graphic with the countries experiencing droughts highlighted.

The countries that make up two thirds of the world’s agricultural output are experiencing drought conditions. Whether you watch a video of the drought in China, Australia, Africa, South America, or the US, the scene will be the same: misery, ruined crop, and dying cattle.

China

The drought in Northern China, the worst in 50 years, is worsening, and summer harvest is now threatened. The area of affected crops has expanded to 161 million mu (was 141 million last week), and 4.37 million people and 2.1 million livestock are facing drinking water shortage. The scarcity of rain in some parts of the north and central provinces is the worst in recorded history.

The drought which started in November threatens over half the wheat crop in eight provinces – Hebei, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi and Gansu.

Henan
China’s largest crop producing province, Henan, has issued the highest-level drought warning. Henan has received an average rainfall of 10.5 millimeters since November 2008, almost 80 percent less than in the same period in the previous years. The Henan drought, which began in November, is the most severe since 1951.

Anhui
Anhui Province issued a red drought alert, with more than 60 percent of the crops north of the Huaihe River plagued by a major drought.

Shanxi
Shanxi Province was put on orange drought alert on Jan. 21, with one million people and 160,000 heads of livestock are facing water shortage.

Jiangsu
Jiangsu province has already lost over one fifth of the wheat crops affected by drought. Local agricultural departments are diverting water from nearby rivers in an emergency effort to save the rest.

Hebei
Over 100 million cubic meters of water has been channeled in from outside the province to fight Hebei’s drought.

Shaanxi
1.34 million acres of crops across the bone-dry Shanxi province are affected by the worsening drought.

Shandong
Since last November, Shandong province has experienced 73 percent less rain than the same period in previous years, with little rainfall forecast for the future.

Relief efforts are under way. The Chinese government has allocated 86.7 billion yuan (about $12.69 billion) to drought-hit areas. Authorities have also resorted to cloud-seeding, and some areas received a sprinkling of rain after clouds were hit with 2,392 rockets and 409 cannon shells loaded with chemicals. However, there is a limit to what can be done in the face of such widespread water shortage.

As I have previously written, China is facing hyperinflation, and this record drought will make things worse. China produces 18% of the world’s grain each year.

Australia

Australia has been experiencing an unrelenting drought since 2004, and 41 percent of Australia’s agriculture continues to suffer from the worst drought in 117 years of record-keeping. The drought has been so severe that rivers stopped flowing, lakes turned toxic, and farmers abandoned their land in frustration:

A) The Murray River stopped flowing at its terminal point, and its mouth has closed up.
B) Australia’s lower lakes are evaporating, and they are now a meter (3.2 feet) below sea level. If these lakes evaporate any further, the soil and the mud system below the water is going to be exposed to the air. The mud will then acidify, releasing sulfuric acid and a whole range of heavy metals. After this occurs, those lower lake systems will essentially become a toxic swamp which will never be able to be recovered. The Australian government’s only options to prevent this are to allow salt water in, creating a dead sea, or to pray for rain.

For some reason, the debate over climate change is essentially over in Australia.

The United States

California
California is facing its worst drought in recorded history. The drought is predicted to be the most severe in modern times, worse than those in 1977 and 1991. Thousands of acres of row crops already have been fallowed, with more to follow. The snowpack in the Northern Sierra, home to some of the state’s most important reservoirs, proved to be just 49 percent of average. Water agencies throughout the state are scrambling to adopt conservation mandates.

Texas
The Texan drought is reaching historic proportion. Dry conditions near Austin and San Antonio have been exceeded only once before—the drought of 1917-18. 88 percent of Texas is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and 18 percent of the state is in either extreme or exceptional drought conditions. The drought areas have been expanding almost every month. Conditions in Texas are so bad cattle are keeling over in parched pastures and dying. Lack of rainfall has left pastures barren, and cattle producers have resorted to feeding animals hay. Irreversible damage has been done to winter wheat crops in Texas. Both short and long-term forecasts don’t call for much rain at all, which means the Texas drought is set to get worse.

Augusta Region (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina)
The Augusta region has been suffering from a worsening two year drought. Augusta’s rainfall deficit is already approaching 2 inches so far in 2009, with January being the driest since 1989.

Florida
Florida has been hard hit by winter drought, damaging crops, and half of state is in some level of a drought.

La Niña likely to make matters worse
Enough water a couple of degrees cooler than normal has accumulated in the eastern part of the Pacific to create a La Niña, a weather pattern expected to linger until at least the spring. La Niña generally means dry weather for Southern states, which is exactly what the US doesn’t need right now.


South America

Argentina
The worst drought in half a century has turned Argentina’s once-fertile soil to dust and pushed the country into a state of emergency. Cow carcasses litter the prairie fields, and sun-scorched soy plants wither under the South American summer sun. Argentina’s food production is set to go down a minimum of 50 percent, maybe more. The country’s wheat yield for 2009 will be 8.7 million metric tons, down from 16.3 million in 2008. Concern with domestic shortages (domestic wheat consumption being approximately 6.7 million metric ton), Argentina has granted no new export applications since mid January.

Brazil
Brazil has cut its outlook for the crops and will do so again after assessing damage to plants from desiccation in drought-stricken regions. Brazil is the world’s second-biggest exporter of soybeans and third-largest for corn.

Brazil’s numbers for corn harvesting:

Harvested in 2008: 58.7 million tons
January 8 forecast: 52.3 million tons
February 6 forecast: 50.3 metric tons (optimistic)
Harvested in 2009: ???

Paraguay
Severe drought affecting Paraguay’s economy has pushed the government to declare agricultural emergency. Crops that have direct impact on cattle food are ruined, and the soy plantations have been almost totally lost in some areas.

Uruguay
Uruguay declared an “agriculture emergency” last month, due to the worst drought in decades which is threatening crops, livestock and the provision of fresh produce.
The a worsening drought is pushing up food and beverage costs causing Uruguay’s consumer prices to rise at the fastest annual pace in more than four years in January.

Bolivia
There hasn’t been a drop of rain in Bolivia in nearly a year. Cattle dying, crops ruined, etc…

Chile
The severe drought affecting Chile has caused an agricultural emergency in 50 rural districts, and large sectors of the economy are concerned about possible electricity rationing in March. The countries woes stem from the “La Niña” climate phenomenon which has over half of Chile dangling by a thread: persistently cold water in the Pacific ocean along with high atmospheric pressure are preventing rain-bearing fronts from entering central and southern areas of the country. As a result, the water levels at hydroelectric dams and other reservoirs are at all-time lows.

Horn of Africa

Africa faces food shortages and famine. Food production across the Horn of Africa has suffered because of the lack of rainfall. Also, half the agricultural soil has lost nutrients necessary to grow plant, and the declining soil fertility across Africa is exacerbating drought related crop losses.

Kenya
Kenya is the worst hit nation in the region, having been without rainfall for 18 months. Kenya needs to import food to bridge a shortfall and keep 10 million of its people from starvation. Kenya’s drought suffering neighbors will be of little help.

Tanzania
A poor harvest due to drought has prompted Tanzania to stop issuing food export permits. Tanzania has also intensified security at the border posts to monitor and prevent the export of food. There are 240,000 people in need of immediate relief food in Tanzania.

Burundi
Crops in the north of Burundi have withered, leaving the tiny East African country facing a severe food shortage

Uganda
Severe drought in northeastern Uganda’s Karamoja region has the left the country on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. The dry conditions and acute food shortages, which have left Karamoja near starvation, are unlikely to improve before October when the next harvest is due.

South Africa
South Africa faces a potential crop shortage after wheat farmers in the eastern part of the Free State grain belt said they were likely to produce their lowest crop in 30 years this year. South Africans are “extremely angry” that food prices continue to rise.

Other African nations suffering from drought in 2009 are: Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tunisia, Angola, and Ethiopia.

Middle East and Central Asia

The Middle East and Central Asia are suffering from the worst droughts in recent history, and food grain production has dropped to some of the lowest levels in decades. Total wheat production in the wider drought-affected region is currently estimated to have declined by at least 22 percent in 2009. Owing to the drought’s severity and region-wide scope, irrigation supplies from reservoirs, rivers, and groundwater have been critically reduced. Major reservoirs in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria are all at low levels requiring restrictions on usage. Given the severity of crop losses in the region, a major shortage of planting seed for the 2010 crop is expected.

Iraq
In Iraq during the winter grain growing period, there was essentially no measurable rainfall in many regions, and large swaths of rain-fed fields across northern Iraq simply went unplanted. These primarily rain-fed regions in northern Iraq are described as an agricultural disaster area this year, with wheat production falling 80-98 percent from normal levels. The USDA estimates total wheat production in Iraq in 2009 at 1.3 million tons, down 45 percent from last year.

Syria
Syria is experienced its worst drought in the past 18 years, and the USDA estimates total wheat production in Syria in 2009 at 2.0 million tons, down 50 percent from last year. Last summer, the taps ran dry in many neighborhoods of Damascus and residents of the capital city were forced to buy water on the black market. The severe lack of rain this winter has exacerbated the problem.

Afghanistan
Lack of rainfall has led Afghanistan to the worst drought conditions in the past 10 years. The USDA estimates 2008/09 wheat production in Afghanistan at 1.5 million tons, down 2.3 million or 60 percent from last year. Afghanistan normally produces 3.5-4.0 million tons of wheat annually.

Jordan
Jordan’s persistent drought has grown worse, with almost no rain falling on the kingdom this year. The Jordanian government has stopped pumping water to farms to preserve the water for drinking purposes.

Other Middle Eastern and Central Asian nations suffering from drought in 2009 are: The Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Israel, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Cyprus, and Iran.

Lack of credit will worsen food shortage

A lack of credit for farmers curbed their ability to buy seeds and fertilizers in 2008/2009 and will limit production around the world. The effects of droughts worldwide will also be amplified by the smaller amount of seeds and fertilizers used to grow crops.

Low commodity prices will worsen food shortage

The low prices at the end of 2008 discouraged the planting of new crops in 2009. In Kansas for example, farmers seeded nine million acres, the smallest planting for half a century. Wheat plantings this year are down about 4 million acres across the US and about 1.1 million acres in Canada. So even discounting drought related losses, the US, Canada, and other food producing nations are facing lower agricultural output in 2009.

Europe will not make up for the food shortfall

Europe, the only big agricultural region relatively unaffected by drought, is set for a big drop in food production. Due to the combination of a late plantings, poorer soil conditions, reduced inputs, and light rainfall, Europe’s agricultural output is likely to fall by 10 to 15 percent.

Stocks of foodstuff are dangerously low

Low stocks of foodstuff make the world’s falling agriculture output particularly worrisome. The combined averaged of the ending stock levels of the major trading countries of Australia, Canada, United States, and the European Union have been declining steadily in the last few years:

2002-2005: 47.4 million tons
2007: 37.6 million tons
2008: 27.4 million tons

These inventory numbers are dangerously low, especially considering the horrifying possibility that China’s 60 million tons of grain reserves doesn’t actually exists.

Global food Catastrophe

The world is heading for a drop in agricultural production of 20 to 40 percent, depending on the severity and length of the current global droughts. Food producing nations are imposing food export restrictions. Food prices will soar, and, in poor countries with food deficits, millions will starve.

The deflation debate should end now

The droughts plaguing the world’s biggest agricultural regions should end the debate about deflation in 2009. The demand for agricultural commodities is relatively immune to developments in the business cycles (at least compared to that of energy or base metals), and, with a 20 to 40 percent decline in world production, already rising food prices are headed significantly higher.

In fact, agricultural commodities NEED to head higher and soon, to prevent even greater food shortages and famine. The price of wheat, corn, soybeans, etc must rise to a level which encourages the planting of every available acre with the best possible fertilizers. Otherwise, if food prices stay at their current levels, production will continue to fall, sentencing millions more to starvation.

Competitive currency appreciation

Some observers are anticipating “competitive currency devaluations” in addition to deflation for 2009 (nations devalue their currencies to help their export sector). The coming global food shortage makes this highly unlikely. Depreciating their currency in the current environment will produce the unwanted consequence of boosting exports—of food. Even with export restrictions like those in China, currency depreciation would cause the outflow of significant quantities of grain via the black market.

Instead of “competitive currency devaluations”, spiking food prices will likely cause competitive currency appreciation in 2009. Foreign exchange reserves exist for just this type of emergency. Central banks around the world will lower domestic food prices by either directly selling off their reserves to appreciate their currencies or by using them to purchase grain on the world market.

Appreciating a currency is the fastest way to control food inflation. A more valuable currency allows a nation to monopolize more global resources (ie: the overvalued dollar allows the US to consume 25% of the world’s oil despite having only 4% of the world’s population). If China were to selloff its US reserves, its enormous population would start sucking up the world’s food supply like the US has been doing with oil.

On the flip side, when a nation appreciates its currency and starts consuming more of the world’s resources, it leaves less for everyone else. So when china appreciates the yuan, food shortages worldwide will increase and prices everywhere else will jump upwards. As there is nothing that breeds social unrest like soaring food prices, nations around the world, from Russia, to the EU, to Saudi Arabia, to India, will sell off their foreign reserves to appreciate their currencies and reduce the cost of food imports. In response to this, China will sell even more of its reserves and so on. That is competitive currency appreciation.

When faced with competitive currency appreciation, you do NOT want to be the world’s reserve currency. The dollar is likely to do very poorly as central banks liquidate trillions in US holdings to buy food and appreciate their currencies.

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coffee-diesel

The biofuel madness continues unabated. It’s been obvious for years now that the concept has mainly disadvantages from both an ecological as well as a global justice perspective: more forests are chopped down to make room for fuel crops, biofuel production uses more energy than you get from using the end product, less area is devoted to growing food, higher food prices causing more starvation and increasing world poverty, our dependency on cars remains and because they are growing in numbers, biofuels actually contributes indirectly to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and so on; it’s a long list.

Now some coffee drinking researchers shot themselves in the foot by discovering oil in coffee. The NY Times reported a few days ago that scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno, have made diesel fuel from used coffee grounds. Analysis showed that even the grounds contained about 10 to 15 percent oil by weight. It is commendable of course that these guys are thinking about recycling waste, but even if all the coffee grounds in the world were used to make fuel, the amount produced would be less than 1 percent of the diesel used in the United States annually.

You would think that makes the whole idea not viable, but as with other food crops, the agri-business of course might in future see a very different commercial opportunity. Why stick with coffee grounds? Using real coffee will render even higher levels of oil, plus there is cheap and awfully tasting coffee around, like those beans of the robusta variety. These two factors alone might make it viable to grow coffee as a fuel crop – with all the disadvantages mentioned above to the planet including us. And they certainly won’t be outweighed by exhaust fumes spreading coffee aroma.

It’s the usual thing: we have an idea that on the surface looks good, but we don’t think through possible consequences. And science in particular has a long and bad track record in thinking holistically.

This video is an introduction to finding and creating delicious, healthy and quite safe meals, using ingredients found by dumpster diving behind grocery stores. The concept of cooking gourmet meals from dumpster diving was developed some time in 2004 by the DoEat Collective, a group of artists who wanted to demonstrate the waste of food in our culture. A “freegan” is a person who chooses to eat food thrown away by stores and restaurants to avoid waste and limit their impact on the environment. I have to say though that, while having some admiration for those guys, I rather stick with shop-bought and garden-grown food.