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Sep
05

Warning – ”food” prices may rise

The end of August yields a heavy bounty. Harvesting is at its peak period, and clear weather allows us to haul large quantities of vegetables in top condition. We are half way through the CSA and we hope that by now, you’re feeling pretty good about your investment.

tomatoes, garlic, basil, carrots, beets, broccoli and more!!

As for store customers, you can expect to see a large variety of fresh vegetables available to you at a very reasonable price. We did our homework, and noticed a good amount of our produce is cheaper than Loblaws organic or health food store prices… Maybe it’s worth the trip after all!

Food Prices
Warning – ”Food” prices may rise

Several people have been offering their sympathetic comments in regards to the difficult growing season. It has been very encouraging to receive positive feedback indeed. One related question that often comes up relates to food prices, and what might happen to them as a consequence of the current harvest shortfalls.

One thing I would like to stress is that not all ”farmers” have the same needs. Lumping all farmers into one category is just as inaccurate and condescending as lumping everyone who receives a federal government paycheck into the same company. ”Oh those government workers…” You get the idea. Therefore it goes without saying that different kinds of food producers (in biodynamic terms, most of these ”farms” are actually just fields or warehouses) are affected in different ways.

Farmers affected most by the drought are grain growers, because they grow large fields of un-irrigated cash crops, and meat producers, because they need large fields of lush pasture and hay. Next year, all meat producers who feed grain will experience a drastic rise in feed prices, and their bottom lines will in turn be affected. Farmers growing specialty and/or high value crops such as vegetables (in gardens or greenhouses) are among the least affected, unless the well ran out.

I feel that organic/biodynamic, mixed farms will be the group best able to mitigate damages. So you’re relying on the right people to keep your fridge full!

The second thing to consider is that most people buy very little food at all. Buy the time ”food” gets to the grocery store it has been picked, packed, washed, cooked, canned, dried, mixed, portioned, enriched, deriched, unfattened, refattened, sweetened, enhanced, packaged, traded, stored and vacuum-sealed into a visually appealing, oversized package.

Within that airplane hangar-sized supermarket filled with food products, nevermind the other knick knacks, there are only a couple ailes dedicated to actual food. They are the produce section and the meat section. Whole grains, dry beans and lentils are sometimes found in the bulk section or tucked under a bottom shelf in the ”ethnic” section, and if we expand our definition of food a little we can also find a few items in the baking sections. Nothing else in any of the other sections (including dairy, which has all been partially cooked and enriched with vitamins by law) is actual food. Just about everything in the supermarket is a food product, the edibility of such product being approved by our federal government.

What’s my point? An average 9 cents of every dollar spent as the grocery store goes to food, otherwise known as ”ingredients”. The rest goes to above-mentioned processes. Even if the price of food, or ingredients, doubles or even triples, that would only mean spending an extra 10 or 20 bucks (at the very, very most) on a $100 grocery bill.

So don’t sweat it. The burden of this harvest shortfall will rest almost entirely on the shoulders of farmers, mainly grain growers and meat producers.

In Canada, this small group of mostly elderly men is pretty quiet and easy to tame. They might make a fuss about it for a while, but the average city-dwelling Canadian (who spends an average 10% of their income on food) could easily ignore the situation and go about their daily lives without noticing too much of a difference. A 10% increase of something you spend 10% of your income on doesn’t exactly translate to a very dramatic amount.

If you happen to live in east Affrica or the middle east, or elsewhere in the world where people spend on average 60 to 80% of their income on food, and where harvests have been poor for several years, and wher there are many, many more farmers, you might expect a few riots and a coup d’état or two…

So that’s all I can tell you. My vegetables prices will remain stable. My chicken price will surely rise by a few cents or a dollar… Everything else is up to the processors, marketers, distributors, bankers and traders. We shall see how they play their hand.

This is a single weblog entry, posted on September 5th, 2012. Comment here »

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