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 The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food

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PostSubject: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food market'   Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:01 pm

Maintaining food security was an important focus of post second world war politics and shaped the EU to some extent.
We are now facing very serious threats to food security. Climate change, the displacement of food crops by fuel crops, the shift from cereal grown for human consumption to cereal grown for meat production, oil prices and the increased cost of transporting food, the impacts of oil prices on agricultural costs have all contributed to a rapid decline in world food stocks.

FAO has announced this year that world wheat stores declined 11 percent to 12 weeks of the world's total consumption, down from an average of 18 weeks consumption 2002-2005, with only 8 weeks of corn supply.


"U.S. wheat futures broke $10 a bushel for the first time Monday, the agricultural equivalent of $100 a barrel oil" -

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=10167

In Ireland people on social welfare spend more that 25% of their income on food and prices of some staples have shot through the roof - the IFA describe a Big Bang of increases so far in 2008.

The EU have finally started to react and remove some setaside requirements. Surely we should stop building on our A1 Grade Lands, become food self sufficient and stop supporting meat and ethanol production?
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:16 pm

cactus flower wrote:
In Ireland people on social welfare spend more that 25% of their income on food and prices of some staples have shot through the roof - the IFA describe a Big Bang of increases so far in 2008.

The EU have finally started to react and remove some setaside requirements. Surely we should stop building on our A1 Grade Lands, become food self sufficient and stop supporting meat and ethanol production?
The price of cigarettes should be dropped - the Commission are taking us to court anyway over the prices and I hope we lose. People will have more money in their pockets for food.

The implementation of the second point - using our land for what it should be used for - food - would require a Stalinist-type purge of the land. The IFA is way too strong isn't it? The price of energy is rising too quickly and energy is in such demand now that they'll keep their iron little fists around whatever govt is in 'power'.

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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:20 pm

The Stalinists weren't too successful at intensifying agriculture - after they drove the Kulaks off to the camps and collectivised there was mass starvation.
Perhaps we could consider planning restriction on grade A soils like in most other countries and some measures to get the sons of farmers who moved into the building trades to move back to growing stuff.
And I suppose smoking does suppress your appetite
alien
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:36 pm

Older readers will recall I raised this very issue numerous times in the old countr, sorry Site. Embarassed

Its by no means just those on Social Welfare who spend 25% on the food bill each week I can tell you!

Another big issue that's heading our way and yet one in which we have signed away so much of our ability to influence.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:10 pm

cactus flower wrote
Quote :
In Ireland people on social welfare spend more that 25% of their income on food and prices of some staples have shot through the roof - the IFA describe a Big Bang of increases so far in 2008.

Brandubh wrote
Quote :
Its by no means just those on Social Welfare who spend 25% on the food bill each week I can tell you!


Half a century ago the Irish were spending of 80% of household budget on foof - that's now down to an average of 15%.

Quote :
The Stalinists weren't too successful at intensifying agriculture - after they drove the Kulaks off to the camps and collectivised there was mass starvation.
Perhaps we could consider planning restriction on grade A soils like in most other countries and some measures to get the sons of farmers who moved into the building trades to move back to growing stuff.

There may be a rezoning issue to be dealt with, but I'd imagine it's relatively small in the scheme of intensification that you seem to be suggesting (but nonetheless important).

We could stop supporting meat production in this country but not all of that land 'saved' is suitable for arable crops.

Grass is a huge national resource here that doesn't exist in other countries like Spain and Italy where cattle production is more intensive, where cattle are rarely outdoors and are fed on grain - so there's a model here for extensive cattle farming on land that is suitable. It's not really an 'either - or' situation. If we intensify cattle production (and I know you're not suggesting that we do, but it accounts for 2bn exports and 50,000 jobs) then we end up feeding them grain that we've taken them off the land to produce.

Can we increase yields of crops? There's always room for improvement, but as it is, Ireland has some of the highest yields in the world and most of the land that can be used, is already being used.

Setaside has been set at 0% this year to free up more land.

That said, the amount of land used for grain production will increase this year because a lot of farmers who are in a position to change the use of their land, will do but only because it will now be viable to grow grain. Producing it at 120E per tonne and selling it at 110E (even with straw to keep/sell) has not been realistic for farmers in recent years. We lost 100,000 hectares of grain production during those lean years since the loss of intervention which was, as we all know, a food security measure designed to encourage production when the market price was below the cost of production.

Last year's price of 200E was a boon but increasing production across the world this year will see that figure lower this year.

Quote :
using our land for what it should be used for - food - would require a Stalinist-type purge of the land. The IFA is way too strong isn't it? The price of energy is rising too quickly and energy is in such demand now that they'll keep their iron little fists around whatever govt is in 'power'.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the above Auditor, because land only becomes unavailable for food production when it is rezoned or applications are made for one-off houses, etc. In the former case, it's a planning decision ultimately made by planners and in the latter it's a personal decision made by landowners or those who want to dwell in the country. I'm not saying that some farmers don't want to use their land for development, they clearly do. However, the decisions that are made are ultimately out of the farmers' hands.

Rising energy and fuel costs affect farmers too and sometimes people are inclined to forget that. It looks like increases in the cost of fertiliser (scarcity and energy intensive production) and diesel this year will increase the production price of a tonne of grain to 140E per tonne this year.

An interesting point came up on Drivetime earlier in the week when the correspondent in Waterford who looks at regional papers quoted one from (I think) the North which showed a huge variation in the price of a basket of 15 items in Tesco in Cavan and another Tesco just over the border in a town whose name escapes me, offering 75p sterling per euro. I think the pack of fishfingers, for example worked out 75% dearer. There are questions to be answered there...

Another issue that I have a completely irrational (so Wonderful Husband tells me) bugbear about is the fact that people on lower incomes spend a lot of their money, as is their perogative, on highly processed food that has huge amounts of additives, fillers and gunk.(and people on higher incomes spend a lot of money on more stylish 'value added' foods that are often just as 'cheap', M&S have been working hard to improve their ready meals) I know a cut of meat or fresh veg seems more expensive but that's because they're unadulterated and have most of their nutritional value. I appreciate there are issues of time and education and all those other considerations but when it comes to cheap food, there's far more to be considered than cost.

To be honest, from farm to fork there's a revolution needed globally in how we deal with food.

Finally, the title of this thread irks me more than a bit. Even though I recognise that most of the OP refers to what Ireland can do, there are also references to international influences. Food security cannot be seen in a purely Irish context.
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The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food market'



On a global scale, ten million people die every year from hunger, half of them children. Many have never known food security.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 4:10 pm

That was an interesting and substantial post Kate, I think it is really important for this to be debated and a sense of urgency felt. However I don't understand why the title of the thread irks you. The thread was never intended to be limited to Irish impacts and my first post deals with the global threat not a specifically Irish one, particularly if you read the link. When it comes to dealing with the threat, in my view we have to look at what we can do ourselves if we don't want to drift into unconstructive abstraction.


In this context, surely we should be looking at least at self sufficiency in food. with reduced dependency on oil to transport food, and on maximising our capacity to export food. At the moment we are only self-sufficient in dairy.

I always thought it is largely a myth that people on low incomes fecklessly spend their money on the wrong foods. This was said about the Irish during the famine. It is very difficult to get enough basic calories into a family on social welfare and healthy food is more expensive. My experience is that cigarette addiction in people who are stressed out of their heads by trying to live on a pittance would be a worse problem in terms of budget.

Urban people often don't understand that when a city sprawls, it is often sprawling over prime productive land, as cities grew up in areas with a good local food production capacity. I and others have approached government on this issue since the drafting the the National Spatial Strategy. Ireland is an exception in not having any policy on this. Property and development interests I suppose have prevailed.

We have a Green Ag minister who is heavily promoting ethanol production. Do the Greens I wonder have any awareness of food supply as an issue?

I left out two more substantial threats to food supply: the fishing out wild fish stocks to collapsing point and population increase.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:45 pm

grow your own ftw
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:50 pm

I think we're coming from the same place on this, Cactus Flower. I doubt that you'd disagree that in terms of the developing world the sense of urgency - enough urgency to do something about it - should have been felt by the international community long ago.

As a general issue, I find it interesting that so many developed countries are anxious about food security as if it's something brand new because it is pretty new to a lot of us, yet it's been a matter of life and death that we've all been aware of since the nuns had us collecting for the 'black babies.'

Food security is an immensely complicated issue that ties in self-sufficiency, land use, environmental concerns, GM, energy and - and much, much more. including the ethics of food .

I don't think anyone is entitled to cheap food. I believe we are all entitled to good quality food at a reasonable price. What is on offer in our supermarkets is only one aspect of that.

I don't blame people as 'feckless' who have choices to make about how much they can spend on food and the choices that they make on that basis but I have a huge gripe with food companies who produce value-added products with little or no nutritional value, put huge advertising budgets behind them and aim them at different markets - whether it's the low cost value meal or the more expensive (but equally awful at times) middle class ready meal. I think it's immoral on every level. And people make choices. I know lots of people who have decent incomes and choose to buy the kind of food that I wouldn't have in the house because it bears no resemblance to real food. Even that is a complex issue that deserves more than one paragraph to make sense of.

I don't think any mother or father wants to feed her/his children food that is less than good for them. However I find it unconscionable that the choice for those on low incomes seems to be limited to the kinds of foods that most of us who know better and can afford better simply wouldn't eat. It's very, very wrong and supermarkets and manufacturers who make monstrous profits on the back of all consumers, yet still offer what I consider to be substandard food to those who can't afford better quality - and still make money out of it because the quality of raw ingredients is so mediocre.

But I think that when we talk about pricing people out of the food market, we should have some discussion about what kind of food that is. The above is only one aspect. There are also issues around the role that GM should play in increasing food security. And the role of organic production....

The argument about cigarettes is interesting but it's not about food; it's about choice and we cannot legislate for how people choose to spend their incomes. What we can legislate for is quality food of reasonable price. But while profits are more important than ethics in the food manufacturing industry , that's unlikely to happen any time soon. It's an area where I cannot agree that the consumer (especially the less well off consumer) is entitled to what he chooses to pay for because food is such an fundamental. It's not enough that there's nothing that will poison you or that the food is produced in hygienic conditions.

Of course it's our individual, if necessarily rather selfish responsibility to safeguard our own food security in Ireland. I'd argue that maybe there's a discussion about food internationally to be had first. Otherwise what happens is that we make more bad decisions - and need Monsanto to bail us out.

I'm also fairly sure that we are self-sufficient in beef and lamb. We could be self sufficient in pig meat - most pig farmers are being badly squeezed by cheap imports and the cost of grain.

But then we're into another argument: we export lamb to France at a decent price most of the time - yet farmers lose out here to cheap lamb exported 12,000 miles from New Zealand.

A guy from New Zealand spoke at a meeting not too long ago and told Irish farmers that if we wanted to become competitive like them in sheep farming that we should leave our animals out with minimal husbandry for a couple of years. What survives is hardy enough to need far less farmer intervention and so labour costs are gone. You can imagine the horror that suggestion was greeted with. That idea is anathema to Irish farmers who spend weeks lambing their ewes indoors, fostering lambs, bottle feeding weak lambs... day and night. There's an ethic in that too.

If food is cheap in this world, it's my belief that mostly, someone or something is getting screwed. It costs money to produce good food and we as a society, I think have to think long and hard about whether that's important and if it is, as I believe it is, what we as a society are willing to do to facilitate it. But there are no easy answers, especially with issues of food security looming - but I don't think we can divorce the issue of quality from quantity.

Maybe we have to go back to the issue of what food is to answer that and then we can think more clearly about what self-sufficiency is in that context.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:01 pm

cactus flower wrote:
In this context, surely we should be looking at least at self sufficiency in food. with reduced dependency on oil to transport food, and on maximising our capacity to export food. At the moment we are only self-sufficient in dairy.
Do we export too much meat? We could be self-sufficient with food but do we need to be? Being in the EU may leave us open to laws which may debar us from developing our markets in particular ways.

It really seems like we are heading towards a stand-off between energy resources, food and demands of population. We are one of the world's major exporters of meat and I'd question whether we should really have such a leaning in our ag sector. Wouldn't a bit of balance be more reliable? Meat is energy-hungry to produce. We have very little forest as well.

Does anyone know our policies on providing grants for setting up organic farms?

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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:19 pm

Did I not read recently that the EU has limited the increase in milk production to 1% per annum.

Which is fine I suppose if your population is growing by just 1% each year but is a problem when like ours its growing a lot faster.

Has not the price of milk here gone up way in excess of inflation?
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:48 pm

There was an article in last week's Sunday Times regarding the growth (no pun intended) of biofuels around the world. It wote about the different approaches used by different countries and the effect on the environment. Apparently, the use of sugar cane is much more efficient than corn, and needs no fertiliser, whereas corn needs to be heavily fertilised with substantial run-off, so much so that a 7000 square mile area at the mouth of the Mississippi is now dead to all forms of aquatic life. Biofuel has started to be viewed as a poison that will push up food prices worldwide. The article also stated that Eastern Europe's tradition of growing cereals had faded away, and that's it's reintroduction was necessary.
Regarding the amount that lower income families spend on low nutritional foods, a doctor on TV last week was saying that the food companies were only acting as any company would regarding feedback from sales, and therefore were offering these type of foods to stay in competition.
I couldn't help but notice when all the neighbours of Shannon Matthews came out on the street to celebrate her discovery, that almost all of them were obese.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sun Mar 16, 2008 9:15 pm

What is ftw lostexpectation? is it tasty?

Kate: the food issue I am raising here is not about choices, which is an interesting issue that might be worth its own thread.
Research I have read suggests the opposite to what you say. There is a link to one example below, along with a link to a good article on meat production impacts. Perhaps you have some alternative research findings. In my personal experience people on low incomes are not stupid or indifferent to the health of their families, they are just short of money. Healthy food is much more expensive than basic calories.

(sorry about the font size)

Researchers went shopping at big chain stores and did some cost calculations using 372 foods and drinks. What they found is disheartening. When compared calorie to calorie, all of those low-calorie, vitamin- and mineral-rich foods you're urged to eat were much more expensive than the junk options.

Let's say you wanted to bag up 1,000 calories of fruits and vegetables. It would cost over $18.00 for those 1,000 calories. Now ring up a bag of high-calorie, nutrient-void foods - less than $2.00 for the same amount of calories.

The average price of those healthy foods also increased by about 20 percent in just the two-year period that the researchers were conducting their survey.

Compare that with the junk food, which saw a 2-percent decrease in cost during the same time frame. The researchers noted that these junk foods are actually able to ride out inflation. They conclude that this is why those with the least money to spend also have the highest rates of obesity. They're getting quantity, but certainly not quality.



http://gregrichey.livejournal.com/162677.html#cutid1


http://gregrichey.livejournal.com/162677.html#cutid1


The periodic local famines over the last 50 years have mainly been due to war, to inequality and to indifference and not because of global production incapacity.

The issue I am trying to raise here is an imminent large scale threat to production, due to a number of parallel causes that are unprecedented.

For most of human history we have been a small hunter gatherer population of less than a million. Food insecurity was part of our condition and kept us in balance with the natural resource on which we depended.

Agriculture has changed all that, with surpluses covering famine years and leading to larger populations and to large scale urbanisation. Very large numbers of people are now dependent on commercial agriculture. Climate change, fish stock collapse, switch to bio fuel, dairy and meat are putting an adequate and affordable diet increasingly out of reach for more and more people.

The shift of the developing eastern countries from grain and pulse consumption to meat and dairy is hitting prices and driving up the energy demands and emissions from food production. Biofuels are directly competing with grains for human consumption. The oil component of food production is adding to the pressure, as is population increase and land degradation.

I am not a vegetarian but I have not eaten meat more than once a week for several years.

I have been involved in trying to raise awareness in food capacity issues in land use planning and politically for several years. There are some very small signs of change at EU level, but a lot more urgency is needed. The government promotion of biofuels is counterproductive.

EU policy has kept food prices in the EU much higher than outside. Food is not cheap in the EU. Policy needs to be reconfigured entirely on the basis of preventing disastrous failures to feed populations and very severe impacts on standard of living even for those who can afford to buy food.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:34 pm

Can you please describe for me the ideal scenario, in specifics as you see it, cf?
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:47 pm

Kate P wrote:
Can you please describe for me the ideal scenario, in specifics as you see it, cf?

Whhooh! This is putting it up to me properly.

Maybe I should start with a utopian ideal and then see if there is any way of getting there.

The ideal scenario, as I see it, would be to have a global population that is in balance with the capacity of the planet to sustain production at the maximum level of biodiversity. This would allow everyone a healthy diet, while not depleting the resource for the next generation. For example, the fact that we are constantly raising our estimation of the value of fish in the diet would suggest to me that our evolution is adapted to a diet with fairly regular fish/shellfish content. At our present population level of 9 billionish we are not able to achieve this and are damaging fish stocks perhaps irreversibly: the amount of fish available is declining as the population rises. Coastal communities are facing depopulation or starvation. Fish farming is not a viable solution as it uses more marine protein than it produces.

In our Utopia we have therefore, over two or three generations, reduced our family size and thus our population, by about half, by having smaller families and by having our families at a slightly later average age. To compensate for our smaller families, we live more communally, sharing care of babies with grandparents and siblings - there is nearly always a baby about the place. We intend to reduce the population still further, without famine or war, by contraception. The social pressure to have children is reduced: people having them really want them. Everyone appreciates that having fewer children is a better option than reducing populations through war and famine.

Food has become a much more respected and central part of life: people gather to eat in a relaxed and social way, and take a siesta after a long lunch. We take time to savour and digest food, and to respect and appreciate it. Neither do we over-indulge. Food is prepared in ways that maximise nutritional value, as well as for taste.

The basic diet is produced locally, and is mainly eaten in season. Everyone grows some food, maybe about 10-20% of what we eat. 10% of our food is hunted or gathered ( blackberries, mussels, fish, nuts etc.). Everyone has enough to eat and hunting, gathering, gardening and growing food is part of how we burn off calories.

We have a farmer population who have developed ways of growing without injurious chemicals and who have developed ways of growing food without using non-renewable energy.

Our population is at a level that means we can grow and catch enough food whilst allowing a lot of the planet to be wild, with continual evolution of new forms of flora and fauna.

There are good stock piles of food to provide for any bad years - the idea that anyone might starve to death or have malnutrition while there is spare food simply does not exist.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:54 am

Some Local Authorities provide garden allotment plots which can be rented to grow food. If this was widespread around the country it would have a number of effects

- it would be a small source of fresh local food albeit intermittently(cheap and co2 free); it would be a modest but important planted area in an urban environment; it would be a focus for people in the community who would otherwise be at a loose end; continuity and community could be fostered between older and younger generations; knowledge and lore would be maintained and maybe increased; it would be a means of exercise; it could possibly lead to small local industries.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:03 pm

I am all for the Green's idea of school vegetable gardens.
Originally I was sceptical but with the dawning realisation of how serious the food situation may become I think that every child should know how to grow and gather food.
Then they could graduate onto the back garden or the allotment. Most Irish housing is built at such low density that there is plenty of room for at least beans and tomatoes and one or two fruit trees.
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PostSubject: Re: The End of Food Security - 'pricing the poor out of the food   Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:16 pm

If it was never an emergency in terms of supply there is a rash of benefits children could gain from knowing and being involved with food. It's their first interaction with nature and it could teach them how interconnected with nature we are. I don't know if all children would be interested in growing and finding food but I don't think teachers should even really consciously teach children - the children should be unconsciously brought up in it. It should be as natural as exercise or sport is - for a subset of children they will excel in this area. In the theory of multiple intelligences, green fingers and a feeling for nature are considered characteristics of one of the classes of intelligence. If this theory is ever adopted widely enough then it could be unlawful NOT to have some children doing some gardening or biology...

Don't know how the Greens are applying this in urban Ireland though - they'd need plenty of allotment space and so on.
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