Thursday, July 17, 2008

Finish your peas!

"The official "price index" for foods that poor people eat the most -- grains and oils -- has climbed more than threefold so far this decade. This is a catastrophe, but there's no way that changes in eating habits of northerners could be the cause or cure of this radical jump. A recent leaked World Bank report says agrofuel production alone has caused food prices to rise 75 percent between 2002 and February of this year. I like the term "agrofuel," because it reminds us that we're talking about using agricultural resources, instead of "biofuel" that could be made from non-food materials. (It should be noted that The Wall Street Journal has posted a new piece in which Donald Mitchell, author of the draft of the "leaked report," says it was a work in progress and "doesn't reflect the official position of the World Bank.")

Today's hunger crisis results from anti-democratic power that chose to put agribusiness interests in agrofuel production ahead of citizens' interest in eating. It takes no PhD in economics to predict a big price impact from significant farmland diversion from food to fuel. The doubling of the real price of oil in two years, also driven by an industry unaccountable to democratic interests, plays a huge role as well." (Thanks Toufic)

Frances Moore Lappé in the Huff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good moorning,

I have some notes on two quotes from the article:

> I like the term "agrofuel"

Biofuel stems from Biomass fuel, and

> It takes no PhD in economics
> to predict a big price impact
> from significant farmland diversion
> from food to fuel.

I like the term phytofuel, and believe that the key to prediction is not PhD, but research and more ;) for instance may be a good start. For phytofuels on marginal lands, ICRISAT.

It'll only eat your time. Issues at stake are no small feat here.

A few pointers: Dedicated area should be around 20 million ha. by now and output reach the crude production of the United Kingdom or Algeria by next year. Yields per ha. can vary between 500 and 8.000 l. depending on plant used, land and care, with potential for more. The EU had taken out of production more farmland at huge expense over the last few decades than it uses now for fuel; almost all of it with unefficient first generation technology.

The last food price increase of similar proportion seems to have occurred during the 1973 oil crisis. But then again, conclusions should be treated with due respect here.

Dedicated readers should also be familiar with that Malawi fertilizer story by now. Most fertilizer has become expensive these days, with cause determination being a safe bet here.

Obviously the quote is intuitive, but it's opinion, not science. Also obvious by now not should be that its not my preferred one, one of which is at; sympathy with its empathy may vary.

And there is much more to it than the above.


PS. from the Stan Cox entry a bit further down:

> that entails the replacement
> of annual grain monocultures with
> polycultures of perennial grains
> and oilseeds.

that most fuel in the EU is made from rape-seed right now.