Friday, April 02, 2004

Peak Food?

There has been a tremendous amount of bandwidth devoted to the problem of peak oil, when it will happen and what the consequences will be.

But there may be a different problem--even more dangerous--that is sneaking up on us without anywhere near the publicity. World wide production of cereals appears to have peaked and for the last seven years has been, at best, flat, possibly even in decline. At the same time demand continues to grow.

Reasons for this decline include drought, advancing deserts, growing urban areas, and overused water supplies.

So far stocks of surplus cereals have filled in for the shortfalls, but these stocks are dwindling at an alarming rate. In two years world stocks of cereals has declined from 588 million tons to an estimated 382 million tons. China's production shortfall alone holds the potential for throwing world grain markets into turmoil.

Meat production is not looking much better; "Global meat markets in 2003 are characterized by tightening exportable supplies, particularly in developed countries, traditionally the suppliers of nearly three-quarters of the meat trade. Low producer returns, poultry disease outbreaks, adverse weather conditions and higher feed prices have slowed global meat output gains."

Of course, tightening oil supplies will only worsen matters as fertilizers will become more expensive and harder to get.


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