Sleepwalking into a Food Nightmare

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 9:24pm.

New agricultural trends will soon seriously affect you.


In fact, they already have. After years of relatively low inflation for basic agricultural commodities, prices for wheat, corn, eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables, beef and chicken are rising, and experts have said a new era of expensive food is here to stay—but that's not the worst that could happen.

Falling Supplies, Rising Demand

Households in the United States, Britain and elsewhere are facing sizzling price increases for basic foodstuffs. U.S. Labor Department figures show eggs cost 40 percent more than last year; milk is up 26 percent, and bread and flour also have risen by double-digit percentages. Prices for apples, ground beef and chicken are up as well. At the same time, wholesale prices, a good sign of future retail prices, are rising at the fastest rate in five years, with wholesale eggs, pasta and vegetables springing up 60, 30 and 20 percent. This comes on top of significant price increases in 2007 over 2006.

In Britain, food inflation hit its highest recorded monthly level ever in March: 8.4 percent. In February, meat jumped 5.5 percent over January's prices, and imported cereals have risen 47 percent in the past year.

As global wheat supplies fall toward a 30-year low and U.S. stockpiles fall to a 60-year low, prices of the most popular varieties of the staple have climbed steeply, jumping 50 percent since August. At the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, where most of the high-demand spring wheat variety is traded, futures for May delivery have topped $18 a bushel. Wheat for March delivery increased by a quarter of its value to $24, the first time any U.S. wheat contract has exceeded the $20 mark, Bloomberg reports. Corn, soybeans and palm oil all hit new record highs in February, and barley, canola and sunflower seeds are also increasing sharply.

As demand for corn surges, inventories are expected to hit a 24-year low, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In spite of three record harvests in a row, ethanol production and strong global demand have driven corn to a record $5.62 a bushel this month. A year ago, it was close to $2.

As production of biodiesel has rocketed 1,200 percent in recent years, soybeans, the primary ingredient, have risen to almost $15 per bushel, tripling over the past two years. Prices reveal that demand is surprisingly high, given that soybean stockpiles, unlike wheat and corn, are near all-time highs.

The Global Picture

At the same time stateside biodiesel producers are howling for soybeans, world demand is putting increased strain on the crop and other foods. In China, adverse weather has knocked out huge swaths of the season's rapeseed crop, which will increase Chinese imports of soybeans.

Mid-March has seen Japan, South Korea, Iraq and Egypt looking to import nearly half a million tons of wheat, more than half of that from the world's largest grain exporter, the United States. Other voracious wheat buyers include Taiwan, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela. As the U.S. economy, the value of the dollar in particular, has faltered, these nations and others have enjoyed economic growth to the point where millions are developing a taste for more bread, pasta, tortillas and other products made from wheat. In some countries, riots have broken out in the face of doubling wheat prices.

The Seattle Times reports that the world economy as a whole has been growing at an unusually quick 7 percent per year, and the "newly affluent," including millions in China and India, are developing tastes for familiar Western ingredients, particularly beef, pork, noodles and bread.

"Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe," AgResource's Daniel Basse said. "But if they do, we're going to need another two or three globes to grow it all."

"We haven't hit a price that has slowed the international interest," Joe Victor, a commodity researcher, said. "That is something that definitely has the market excited."

That same reality is reflected in the attitude of consumers, from Nebraska to New York to Nigeria. Mukala Sule, a tailor in Lagos, put it plainly.

"I must eat bread and tea in the morning. Otherwise, I can't be happy," he said. Although he, like many consumers, has made cutbacks—in this case forgoing butter—when it comes to food, some things are non-negotiable. "Even if the price goes up, if I have the money, I'll still buy it."

On the individual and national levels, even while prices continue to climb, consumers are still buying it.

The Perfect Storm

As the national and global food situation becomes economically precarious, there is real danger that the balance could be tipped, resulting in actual food shortages around the world. The U.S. dollar, which quantifies not only oil sales but also agricultural commodities, continues to fall against just about every other denomination of value. In the U.S., the result is increasing energy costs for farmers as they produce food, truckers to ship it, processors to process it, and retailers to sell it. In short, sharply higher prices at your grocery store. And food constitutes more than three times the 4 percent of household spending used for gasoline.

For many around the world, the situation is already resulting in greater consequences than simply reapportioning their discretionary spending. The United Nations has said food prices are expected to remain high until 2010 at the earliest, which could fuel a "new hunger" around the world. Contrasted against the newly wealthy, the "newly hungry" are being plunged into poverty and hunger by sharply climbing prices for basic foods. In some cases, violence has resulted in places like Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Senegal.

"Higher food prices will increase social unrest in a number of countries which are sensitive to inflationary pressures and are import-dependent," UN World Food Program (wfp) executive director Josette Sheeran said. Sheeran also said that the global economy had created a perfect storm for the world's hungry, caused by high oil and food prices and low food stocks." The wfp is compiling a list of nations where it says multi-million-dollar injections are needed to keep the people fed. In the Philippines, UN officials say things are getting worse for people who already spend 70 percent of their income on food.

"Price rises mean people who previously were able to meet their own food needs through the market with their own income have been sort of pushed over that precipice and are no longer able to feed their families," Philippines wfp Country Director Valerie Guarnieri said.

But one of the most cataclysmic catalysts in a potential perfect storm of food shortages could be storms themselves—or a lack thereof. One of the biggest reasons for dwindling supplies and soaring prices has been adverse weather conditions, notably Australia's record droughts. Based on biblical prophecy, the Trumpet expects catastrophic weather patterns to intensify, battering farms and forcing the food on your plate to come at a much dearer cost than it has in the past.

Walking in Our Sleep

In spite of these worsening conditions affecting the one commodity nobody can live without, the true import of the trend goes largely undetected. As Tim Lang, professor of food policy at the University of Leeds, said, "We are sleepwalking into a crisis."

Herbert W. Armstrong alertly forecasted such conditions decades ago. Fifty years ago, he wrote,

Yes, time is running out on us, fast, and we're too sound asleep in deception to realize it!

Our peoples will continue only a few more years in comparative economic prosperity. This very prosperity is our fatal curse! Because our people are setting their hearts on it, seeking ease and leisure, becoming soft and decadent and weak! …

Then, suddenly, before we realize it, we'll find ourselves in the throes of famine, and uncontrollable epidemics of disease. Already we're in the beginning of a terrible famine and we don't know it—a famine of needed minerals and vitamins in our foods. Our peoples have ignored God's agricultural laws. Not all the land has been permitted to rest every seventh year. The land has been overworked. Today, the soil is worn out. And food factories, in the interest of larger profits, are removing much of what minerals and vitamins remain—while a new profit-making vitamin industry deludes the people into believing they can obtain these precious elements from pills and capsules purchased in drug stores and "health food" stores!

And all this state of affairs because man is in defiance of his Maker!

The truth is, to avoid the coming crises, which are bigger than individuals, nations, or mankind as a whole can handle, the answer lies in something more fundamental and more spiritual than canceling cable television or selling your atv to make room in the budget. For more on the origin of the era of cheap food and the other blessings Americans and Britons have enjoyed and when and why they are being taken away, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy.


Trumpet - March 14, 2008 - posted at
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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 9:24pm.