In the FT today the story that governments across the developing world are stockpiling food staples as they try to control panic buying, inflation and social unrest. The high cost of food staples like sugar and wheat that has been driving people onto the streets as we have seen lately, so governments are attempting to stockpile supplies in order to appease their populations.
Of course, this is driving prices even higher and on Thursday last week the cost of wheat (the world’s most important staple) reached a two-and-a-half-year high. Countries from Algeria to Saudi Arabia announced extraordinary purchases. Saudi announced that it would double the size of its stockpile.
Bangladesh and Indonesia placed similar huge orders for rice, double their usual size.
The chief executive of Cargill, the world’s largest trader in agricultural commodities, said that where and when prices peaked would depend on the weather.
We now see exactly how climate change is going to have a direct and significant effect on our bank balances, and our stomachs.
The likely response in the short term is more intense agriculture. For example, trying to grow two crops a year in some places. But that is something that can only work for a short time. Then either the soil becomes exhausted, or we find ourselves with a shortage of fertilised, or both.
Essentially the current system is broken. Population is not about to reduce. And rising incomes in the developing world will lead to increased food demand per person.
This cannot continue. We need a new approach to growing food.
The transition approach of growing much more local food is simple, it is sustainable, it strengthens community. And it is resilient to protect us against unknown disasters that may occur in other parts of the world.