Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food Prices are Rising, Home Gardening Can Help

lettuce in home garden
Unrest in the Middle East combined with stock speculation are driving crude oil prices higher and higher. Because of this, food prices, already at a record highs, are likely to increase even further throughout the year.

Hiroyuki Konuma, of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), has said, "The potential risk is crude oil may continue to go higher, and if the floods and drought happen again, we'll face further price increases." He has also said that, "… we're in a much better situation than the crisis in 2008."

In a video press briefing from Bangkok, Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior FAO economist, said “We will get an increase in production but not sufficient to ease the market ... High, volatile prices will continue in 2011 and even in 2012 ...We have to be extremely cautious about what is going to come in 2011-2012. Spring is going to be extremely critical, when farmers will decide what crop they’re going to plant. In many major producing regions, we have already hit maximum acreage.”

Higher crude oil prices were not the only things that have contributed to higher food prices. According to an index compiled by the FAO, prices have surged as bad weather has ruined crops from Canada to Australia. Suffering from its worst drought in 50 years, Russia has stopped exporting grain.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wheat production for 2011 is estimated at 645.4 million tons. The demand, however, has been forecast at 662.7 million tons. Corn is not any better. Its production is estimated at 814.3 million tons, compared to a demand of 836 million tons.

Rice production is the only cereal grain where production, estimated at 451.6 million tons, is slightly above the estimated demand of 451 million tons. Unfortunately for South Asia, rice prices rose to record highs in January.

Fortunately, the FAO has also proposed a solution. Yesterday, they released a report that suggests small scale farming practices could be used in double world food production in 10 years. So called agroecological practices, very similar to organic farming, focus on increasing soil quality and biodiversity.

To me, this implies that it is more important than ever for us to build up our food storage and supplement it with home vegetable gardening. Even though my family garden was a near disaster last year, we are planning on trying again this year. We know we can't grow everything, but we can certainly supplement our diets with a nutritious homegrown food.

Photo credit: Christa Richert

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